One of South America’s two landlocked countries, Paraguay offers an unspoiled land where time and tradition have stood still for generations. For example, its Indian language, Guarani, endures and is often the preferred language outside the capital. Fans of this lesser-known destination say that Paraguay may be short on trendy eateries and luxurious accommodations, but it’s long on charm, as well as great bird- and wildlife. Asuncion is a provincial capital whose pleasures are simple: a stroll through the botanical gardens, a ride on a Victorian-style trolley to the Cathedral, the Government Palace or the La Recoba handicraft market, and enjoying a leisurely lunch at an outdoor cafe. A day’s drive away from the capital is the town of Luque where Paraguayan harps and guitars are made, while Itagua is the hometown of the women who craft the country’s unique, spider-web Ñanduti lace. The country’s most compelling architectural attraction is the 17th century Jesuit missions. Closest to the capital is San Ignacio, founded in 1609 and housing the best collection of Guarani wood carvings. The most impressive missions are in Trinidad, built hilltop between 1712 and 1764; collectively they are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as is the Church of Jesus del Tarangue that sits hilltop six miles away. The town of Filadelfia, settled by Mennonites in the 19th century, is the best base from which to explore the Chaco region west of the Rio Paraguay; its grasslands and scrub forests form an undiscovered oasis for more than 600 bird species and rare animal species. (www.senatur.gov.py)
What’s New in Paraguay
✘ Visitors going overland to Iguazu Falls will stop in Ciudad del Este and have a chance to visit the Itaipu Dam’s hydroelectric plant as well as a reconstructed Guarani Indian village.