Paraguay: A South American Gem for Travelers
There are only 44 landlocked countries in the world; two of them are in South America, and Paraguay is one of those!
La República de Paraguay (Republic of Paraguay) is full of history and culture. Plus, it’s the perfect place to explore in your next vacation!
Keep reading to learn all about Paraguay. Find out what makes it such an interesting destination and discover the must-know facts you need to visit this beautiful country.
All About Paraguay
The name Paraguay comes from the Guaraní “paraguá” and “y” which can be translated in several different ways:
- River that originates a sea – Río que origina un mar
- Payaguaes’ water – Agua de los payaguaes
- River that passes through the sea – Río que pasa por el mar
- River of the dwellers of the sea – Río de los moradores del mar
- Crowned river – Río coronado
The People of Paraguay
Paraguay has a population of around 7 million people. Nearly 3 million live in Asunción, the capital and largest city. 95% of the Paraguayan population are mestizo or white, and the other 5% are indigenous.
The demonym for the citizens of Paraguay is paraguayos or Paraguayan.
The official languages the Paraguayans speak are Spanish and Guaraní. Most Paraguayans are proud to hold their conversations in Guaraní, which makes this native language even more prominent than Spanish, something that is uncommon in other countries in the region.
At least 96% of Paraguayans are Christian.
To learn about an interesting community in Paraguay, read about the Mennonites in Paraguay.
Basic Facts about Paraguay
The government of Paraguay is a unitary presidential republic, with 8 political parties in the country.
The official Paraguayan currency is el guaraní (the guaraní), also known as PYG, and its symbol is “₲.” The exchange rate is ₲6879.00 for every US$1.
Some political and economic groups are trying to push laws to approve the Paraguayan Bitcoin and approve cryptocurrency.
Paraguay has a total area of 157,047 sq mi (406,752 km²) and shares borders with Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest.
If you check a Paraguay map, although it’s an estado sin litoral (landlocked country), it still has coasts, beaches, and ports on the Paraguay and Paraná rivers, which flow to the Atlantic Ocean.
The Paraguay River also serves as a divider, and thanks to it, the country divides into two distinct regions.
The eastern region (La región oriental) has hills and mountains, like the Amambaí (Amambay) Mountains that run from north to south along the border that divides Paraguay and Brazil. Then, there are the Mbaracayú Mountains, which run from east to west. The highest peak is Mount San Rafael.
This region has the valley of the Paraguay River and the Paraná Plateau, with most of the human settlements in Paraguay.
The western region (La región occidental) also known as el Chaco Boreal, or dry Chaco, and is about two-thirds of Paraguay. It’s a flat tropical region that extends to Bolivia and Argentina.
A Brief History of Paraguay
The Spanish reached Paraguayan territory in the early 16th century. The expeditioners intermarried with native women, which created the largely mestizo (mixed) and Creole population.
During the colony, Paraguay was the center of the Jesuit Missions until their expulsion from Spanish colonies in 1767.
In 1811, Paraguayan citizens declared their independence from Spain. As a new nation, they began a long history of dictatorial governments characterized by nationalist, isolationist, and protectionist policies.
This dictatorial government era ended with the Paraguayan War from 1864 to 1870. This war cost Paraguay massive population losses, as well as extensive territory cessions to Argentina and Brazil.
In 1989, when dictator Alfredo Stroessner was overthrown by a military coup and the country was finally able to begin a democratic era. Learn more about Paraguayan history.
Here are 5 dishes you must try when you visit Paraguayan lands:
1. Guaraní Soup (Sopa guaraní)
This is a soup similar to cornbread. Guaraní soup (also known as Paraguayan soup) is a spongy cake rich in caloric and protein content.
2. Mandioca or Yuca
Boiled yucca or manioc is a traditional dish that Paraguayans prefer to eat instead of bread.
3. La Chipa
La chipa is a type of bread, usually prepared with cassava starch, hard cheese, eggs, milk, butter, and salt. It’s so popular that August 9 is the Chipa National Day in Paraguay!
Vorí-vorí is a thick chicken stew with cornflour and cheese balls. The unique name comes from the Guarani borita, which translates to bolita in Spanish or small ball in English.
5. El cocido paraguayo
Similar to coffee in color and consistency, but being more like tea, this beverage is made with used tereré herbs and sugar melted with hot coal. Once the herbs and sugar are completely melted and fused, you add water to this mixture and then strain through a mesh strainer. You can drink it by adding a little bit of milk or orange peels.
Top Tourist Sites in Paraguay
Paraguay is a jewel in the middle of South America. Here are four spectacular places to visit in Paraguay.
Just like every place in the world, the COVID situation in Paraguay is constantly changing. In June 2021, the situation worsened. See the current recommendations and guidelines before traveling to this charming country.
As the largest city and capital of Paraguay, Asunción is a place full of history and culture. The city has some of the most important historic buildings in the country, like:
- la Catedral de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción – Our Lady of Ascension Cathedral
- el Panteón Nacional de los Héroes – National Heroes Pantheon
- la Casa de la Independencia – The Independence House
Asunción is an old city that is doing its best to modernize. It’s the perfect example of how Paraguay as a country is evolving, not forgetting its past, but using it to build a better future.
El Gran Chaco
If you like to explore nature, el Gran Chaco is perfect for you! Full of dense forests and dry plains, it features several spots to explore on your adventure.
While you’re here, be sure to attend the Trans Chaco Rally, known as Rally del Chaco in Spanish, in El Boquerón.
El Gran Chaco is full of wildlife and plenty of plants, so make sure to visit El Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco (El Chaco Defenders National Park). Explore the area in a safari excursion and tour biodiversity projects.
As we stated before, Paraguay, being in the heart of South America, is a landlocked country, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have access to water through rivers, and the enchanting city of Encarnación is proof of how the country has thrived, even without immediate access to the sea.
La playa de San José is one of the most beautiful river beaches in the country. Encarnación features malls, stores, and dance clubs.
If you want to be part of the carnival there, go-between January 23 and February 20.
The largest waterfall in the world, las cataratas de Iguazú is a wonderful place to visit with its astonishing 250 waterfalls. The largest is la Garganta del Diablo (the Devil’s Throat).
Walk along trails, travel by boat to the waterfall’s base, or take a helicopter ride to see this place from above.
Read more about things to do in Paraguay here.
See also: Art, Soccer, and Steak: The Fascinating Culture of Uruguay
Practice Spanish Before Your Adventure in Paraguay
Learning Spanish to travel in Spanish-speaking countries like Paraguay is an ideal way to connect with locals and the local culture. Also, learning Spanish improves your cognition and decision-making abilities and even provides you the opportunity to earn more money.
Sign up today for a free trial class with our certified, native-speaking teachers at Homeschool Spanish Academy and to prepare for your adventures in Paraguay!
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