Paraguay was never really high on my list of places to visit. I’ll be honest, there wasn’t much information floating around the web and I’d never met a single Paraguayan on my travels.
The same as a hundred other countries, it was on my go-to list yet with no expiration date.
After 3 visits and almost 4 months exploring the land, I have a different opinion.
Is Paraguay worth the visit? Definitely yes!
Paraguay has kayaking, ziplining, skydiving, hiking, beaches, history, epic views and above all, incredibly warm and hospitable people. And it’s all so cheap!
For the other websites out there that claim there are not many interesting places to visit in Paraguay, you’re just plain wrong. I’ve explored Paraguay for months and witnessed the true beauty of the country. I’ve got a Guarani tattoo inked on my skin because I love the country so much!
Apologies if I get a little passionate about this… #sorrynotsorry
Over the following weeks I’ll be sharing with you every incredible aspect of the country.
My first visit to Paraguay
My first visit was back in 2014 and I knew I’d return. There’s a wildness and carefree attitude that permeates every aspect of Paraguay. They have a different aspect on time that’s both infuriating and heartwarming in equal measure.
It’s not a disdain for order and schedules… they just missed the memo telling them life must be dictated by a clock. They have a much more fluid attitude to work and timetables. For a European or American this may sound like anarchy. Without timetables and strict deadlines how do they maintain order? Perfectly fine actually.
I spent my first month just bouncing around between parties and social events. I knew no-one but I was welcomed to each event with open arms, open doors and full glasses. Paraguayans are curious. The tourism industry is growing at a snail’s pace so new foreign faces are a rare event.
The fact that someone took the time to visit their country and immerse themselves in the culture was enough. I didn’t speak Spanish? Not a problem. We found a way to make it work. That goes for any country in the world. Never be afraid to visit a new country because of the language barrier. While it’s always better to speak a little, don’t let it put you off.
The first visit ended with a few hangovers, a new tattoo and a deeply ingrained love for Paraguay. There was also one gun incident, but it was completely my fault.
My second visit
My second visit to Paraguay was 5 years later. I had to leave Brazil due to my visa expiring and I knew where I was going.
This time I had the joy of exploring Ciudad del Este. For those who are unaware of this city, it’s a madhouse of real and fake electronics, cheap clothes and weird souvenirs. The city moves at a million miles per hour and it’s an assault on the senses.
If Ciudad was your very first introduction to Paraguay I can see why you’d turn back. It’s not the most inviting nor warming city in the world, but it has charm.
I allowed myself to get swept up in the madness. I was shopping for a certain camera and went to every single electronics shop. The guys who grab at you and try to drag you into their stores came to recognise me as I walked back and forth. At the end of the day we all ended up sitting in the street sharing a beer.
I’d heard horror stories about these guys. “Don’t stop for anyone. Just smile, nod and hurry along.”
No thank you!
Not all of them are honest, trustworthy, stand-up guys… I know this. But I also know that most of them are just trying to make a living. They’re just trying to earn their commission by manhandling people in the stores. I’ve been a door to door salesman… I’m certainly no better than them.
Treat the guys with respect, ask their advice and, if they can’t help you, thank them and say goodbye. It’s not difficult. When you treat them like bottom feeders and throw scared, disgusted looks at them… that’s when they’ll get annoyed.
Have a laugh and a joke, buy a beer and engage them on a personal level and you’ll make friends for life. I’m still in contact with one guy after 6 years and I only met him for 10 minutes.
My third Paraguayan visit
This is where things got interesting.
Writing for Worldpackers.com has opened up a load of fun, new opportunities and Paraguay was no different. I wanted to go there, discover every last little detail of Paraguay and share it with the world.
That desire turned into a challenge… and I love a good challenge!
I don’t know about your personal travelling experience but have you ever decided to see everything? Most people visit with specific landmarks in mind. They have things they want to check off. They have ‘must visit’ destinations and anything else is a bonus.
When was the last time you thought “I’m going to see everything”? Every corner, every town, village, city, statue and bar? It’s not possible for most travellers but, for digital nomads, the lack of restrictions affords you a little more time to go wandering.
Regardless if you’re a nomad or not, if you travel with purpose and focus it’s amazing what you can experience in a short space of time. If you travel with the express purpose of actively engaging with everyone you meet, embracing every opportunity and saying yes to everything your experience will be magnified x1000!
The opposite is passive travel. Bouncing from one photo opportunity to the next with no real connection. While this can be fun if you’ve been there before, it’s a terrible way of experiencing a new culture. That may sound a bit preachy, but throwing yourself into a new community with open arms is soooooooo rewarding.
Nowhere is that more rewarding than Paraguay.
The people are fairly unaccustomed to travellers. They’re even more surprised when people are eager to learn the Paraguayan way of life. The Paraguayans are amazing people. Historically they’ve resisted so much outside influence. Not because they’re isolationists or nationalists… just because political decisions made throughout the ages have led to Paraguay kind of being overlooked.
That, and the fact that the people aren’t showy, flashy or have huge natural wonders to showcase, they just get on with their lives. While Paraguayan Beauty Queens occupy much of their social media, not many others breakthrough.
That DOES NOT mean there’s nothing to see, do or experience in Paraguay. Paraguay is full of activities, adventure sports, great food, natural beauty and unique experiences that you absolutely need to visit!
I’ll be covering these in the coming posts and I promise you won’t be left wanting.
If you find yourself in the south of the continent, in Brazil, Argentina or Bolivia and want a change from every other Instagram photo ever taken… go to Paraguay!
If I don’t convince you by the end of this series then I’ll happily hang my keyboard and fingers up and forsake writing for good.