Before visiting I was completely unaware of all the unique places to sleep in Paraguay.
I expected a few hostels, campsites, posh hotels and not much more. As I said when we discussed if Paraguay is worth a visit, I spent much of my first stay partying in hostels. I didn’t venture out of the capital, Asuncion. That was a mistake which I’m glad I rectified.
Although there’s not much of a tourism industry in Paraguay, it is slowly growing. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to see or do. If you go now, before the inevitable expansion and ‘boom’ (that may still be a long way off), you can have some amazing, unique experiences!
While people often talk about activities to do during the day, and I’ll get to them in a later post, nobody talks about the night. Sleeping takes up a big chunk of your day, so why not make that experience as unique as the daytime?
After 4 months wandering around, I discovered plenty of unique places to sleep in Paraguay. They cover all budgets and comfort levels, so make yourself comfortable as we discuss some awesome places to rest your weary head.
Camping in Paraguay
The cheapest option will undoubtedly be wild camping. While not possible everywhere, there are still plenty of options of national parks, mountains and wilderness to lay your head.
I do love a good wild camp, but I also enjoy a flushing toilet (I’m so bourgeois!). I found the best of both worlds in Salto Suizo, Parque Ecological.
Salto Suiza (Swiss Waterfall) is around 60m tall and located a 10km hike from Independencia (a 4-hour bus ride from Asuncion). There are two entrances, one by a dirt road and the other from the main road. We opted for the dirt, just to sweat every last drop of life from us.
After an hour or so of gentle hiking over dirt, crossing streams and a few big rocks you get to Salto Suizo. It’s one of the more famous waterfalls in Paraguay, but we’ll cover them all in a later post.
Wait! Stop the press!
Why does this make the list of unique places to sleep in Paraguay? You can camp anywhere in the world. What makes this place so special?
Because you can camp at the base of the waterfall! Fancy a little more shade? How about underneath the waterfall???
Entrance costs 20,000 ($3) and you get a snazzy little neon wristband. Keep it on to avoid repaying the entrance fee. The water isn’t particularly deep or raging, but you can have nice breakfast splash and shower before getting on your way again.
The toilet facilities are less than 500m away at the nearby campsite, Camping Belneario. If you want the security of camping there with a toilet and sink at your disposal, that costs 20,000 per night.
Falling asleep under the stars and then emerging from your hammock to the sound of the cascading water is incredible. If there’s a reset button on life, it’s here!
20,000 ($3) to pitch a tent in the grounds and 15,000 for a lovely hot meal in the evening.
The old railroad
Paraguay was one of, if not the first countries in South America to have a fully functioning railway. In the mid-1800s it transported people from the capital, Asuncion, to the nearby cities of Luque and Trinidad.
After the war of the triple alliance (Paraguay against Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay… it did not end well) Argentina took the wagons and carts back as spoils of war. The tracks were mostly destroyed during the fighting, and so the system is no more.
There’s a railway museum in downtown Asuncion where you can see an old steam train, but that’s not where we’ll be sleeping tonight.
No. On a farm, 2 hours north of the capital, is a farm named Estacion Puerto Olivares. That is where magic happens.
The family are super passionate and knowledgeable about both the Paraguayan rail system and trains as a whole. They’re absolutely amazing people. They are also the number #1 authority on kayaking in Paraguay, but I’ll be writing a separate post on that topic shortly.
If you do go there to kayak you’ll find the second of my unique places to sleep in Paraguay.
This one is actually a double whammy. As they’re so passionate about the railway they’ve built a railway museum. How many people can say they’ve slept in a railway museum? I CAN!
I can honestly say that the movies are full of it. I’m not sure what Ben Stiller was smoking before Night at the Museum 1, 2 or 3 but I didn’t see any of that kind of nonsense!
The creepiest it got was when two geckos started fighting over a moth. Savage!
The other unique sleeping experience on the farm comes in the shape of an Amish Cart! I had some AMAZING nights of sleep in there. It’s completely mobile so you can get right out in the field, away from everything. You’re by the Paraguay river so you get the roar of the wildlife as the sun sets. Cicadas, frogs, birds, Howler Monkeys… they all say goodnight in one great chorus. After that you’re left with the magical noises of the dark.
Birds will occasionally land on the top of the cart to wake you with incredible songs, but don’t be in a rush to get up. As I mentioned in my post outlining why Paraguay is worth visiting, time moves slower here. There’s no “Up at 8:00. Dressed by 8:15. Breakfast at 8:30″….. no, no, no.
You get up when it feels right. Eat when you feel hungry. Get dressed… if you feel like getting dressed.
Estacion Puerto Olivares is an incredible retreat. It’s the dream location to reconnect with Earth and nature. If that wasn’t enough, they’re amazing people and they have kayaks!
A barrel of laughs
Remember when we talked about sleeping at the bottom of the Salto Suiza waterfall? By the side of it you’ll find a metal staircase. Follow it up and you’ll find another of the unique places to sleep in Paraguay.
We had no idea what was up there. We were just wandering. I love wandering because it allows the world to reveal some magical surprises.
I presumed it was just a path to reach the top of the falls and admire the view, but it’s much more than that.
When you get to the top you discover another campground. Pizzaria and Bar Salto Suizo started out as a small family operation, catering for waterfall lovers. It’s now grown to include barrels… huge barrels… huge old wine barrels… that you can sleep in!
These old barrels were salvaged from the wineries, treated with love and affection, and they’re now transformed into actual sleeping cabins!
“I’ve slept in a wine barrel”… is there any greater ice-breaker than that???
After telling people about this place I’m usually asked:
- Does it smell of old wine?
Not at all! They’re all cleaned, treated and waterproofed to ensure a perfect stay.
- Are they claustrophobic?
Absolutely not! The beds are spacious with plenty of room to stretch out. They each have their own little porch to relax on… and AC! Each wine barrel has air conditioning and electricity! If that’s not glamping, I don’t know what is!
After your perfect sleep you can go down to enjoy the waterfall, or why not try some zip lining? 2 lines, there and back, take you above the canopy, over the waterfall and allow you a spectacular view of the surrounding land.
A night in a barrel will cost 250,000 PYG per night ($38)
A night in an Ecodome
Before visiting Paraguay I’d never heard of a Ecodome. My world is all the richer for knowing one now.
You’ll find them in San Bernadino, an hours drive from Asuncion, on the shore of the Ypacarai Lake. Bioparque Yrupe is an ecological complex that has regular cabins too. But who wants to stay in a regular cabin?
The real magic comes when you spend a night in a Ecodome. This most definitely qualifies as one of the truly unique places to sleep in Paraguay.
It may not look like much from the outside, but step inside and you’ll be blown away like me. I’d heard that igloos are amazing at maintaining pleasant temperatures, and Ecodomes are no different. Stepping in from the incredible daytime heat you get a soothing caress of cool air.
Like the Tardis in Doctor Who, the space inside is deceptively large. A little porch to drop your bags and shoes and you’re into the main room. It’s huge! A super comfortable double bed sits in the middle, plus enough room to dance around should you wish to.
An en-suite bathroom provides all the facilities one could hope for, and all with a climate that will make you want to stay inside forever.
The other perk which blew my mind? The acoustics! Armed with my ukulele it felt like I had an entire choir behind me. For any singers or players out there, it’s amazing!
If you do decide to leave your dome you have plenty of options. It’s not recommended to swim in the lake due to pollution, so why not dive in the pool? The pool overlooks the lake and is a breath of fresh air during the Paraguayan summer.
If you get a bit peckish you can enjoy a meal and drink at the onsite restaurant before kayaking, cycling or hiking through the natural beauty. They’ve even scattered some QR codes around the grounds, allowing you to discover more information about the flora and fauna.
The dome, a double room, will cost 380,000 per night ($59). If you’re after a romantic, unique getaway in Paraguay, I cannot recommend Bioparque Yrupe strongly enough. Check out their official website for more information.
Paraguay is unique
Paraguay is an amazing little pocket of madness. If you just scratch the surface and stay in the cities you’ll see only a fraction of what makes Paraguay so special.
While there are bits of information online it’s hard to piece it all together to get a coherent plan of attack. How did I find out about all these incredible places? I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the owners of El Farol Hostel in downtown Asuncion. They have contacts, ideas and suggestions for all over the country.
The hostel is an amazing space for backpackers and digital nomads alike and I’ll be writing up a full piece about their journey soon.