Landlocked, rural Paraguay is a bit of an unknown quantity for visitors, well off the beaten track, and culturally very different from its neighbours, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia. However it’s a friendly, quirky place, easily reached by land from neighbouring attractions such as the Iguazú Falls which is just over the border from bustling Ciudad del Este where duty free goods are snapped up by Brazilian and Argentinian day trippers.
It’s more than a tax free shop however. Northwest from the capital, Asuncion, stretches a vast, flat, stiflingly hot territory of salt flats, swampland, dry forest and cattle ranches, the scarcely populated Chaco. Inhospitable, maybe: but various species of wild mammal such as armadillo, tapir and even jaguar survive here. East and south of the capital tropical forest is more lush and home to an array of tropical birds. Nature lovers won’t be disappointed and numerous national parks are abundant with wildlife.
The indigenous population of Guaraní indians is still very much in evidence and their language is spoken widely. Colonial Spain has left its mark here, in the sleepy riparian capital Asunción, and the country is dotted with the ruins of Jesuit settlements. Remote Paraguay has always offered a refuge for people under threat, from European Mennonites to refugees from Nazi Germany.