Paraguay

North of Asunción

The winding Río Paraguay is 400 m wide and is still the main trade route for the products of northern Paraguay, in spite of a paved highway built to Concepción. Boats carry cattle, hides, yerba mate, tobacco, timber and quebracho, a tree that provides the purest form of tannin. On the river, a boat trip to Concepción is one of the most interesting ways to see the country. East of the river, towards Brazil, is the historically significant Cerro Corá national park.

Asunción to Concepción

North from Asunción by river, you pass Villa Hayes, founded in 1786 but renamed in 1879 for the US president who arbitrated a territorial dispute with Argentina in Paraguay's favour, where the bridge marks the beginning of the Trans-Chaco Highway. Further upstream is Puerto Antequera and 100 km beyond is Concepción. By road there are two alternative routes. One is via the Trans-Chaco Highway and Pozo Colorado. The Pozo Colorado-Concepción road, 146 km, is completely paved. This route offers spectacular views of birdlife. Via Ruta 2 to Coronel Oviedo, Ruta 3 to Yby Yaú (paved) and thence west along Ruta 5 (paved). North of Coronel Oviedo, at Tacuara (Km 225), a road heads west to Rosario, from where you can visit the Mennonite community of
Colonia Volendam
, nine hours by bus from Asunción. German and Spanish are spoken here.

Concepción

A free port for Brazil, Concepción, 312 km north of Asunción, stands on the east bank of the Río Paraguay. It is known as La Perla del Norte for its climate and setting. To appreciate the colonial aspect of the city, walk away from the main commercial streets. At Plaza La Libertad are the Catedral and recently restored Municipalidad. Sunsets from the port are beautiful. The town is the trade centre of the north, doing a considerable business with Brazil. The market, a good place to try local food, is east of the main street, Agustín Pinedo (which is a kind of open-air museum). From here Avenida Presidente Franco runs west to the port. Along Avenida Agustín Pineda is a large statue of María Auxiliadora with Christ child. There are stairs to balconies at the base of the monument which offer good views of the city. The
Museo Municipal
, contains a collection of guns, religious art and other objects. Plaza Agustín Fernando de Pinedo has a permanent craft market. About 9 km south is a bridge across the Río Paraguay, which makes for an interesting walk across the shallows and islands to the west bank, about an hour return trip. The island in the Río Paraguay facing Concepción is Isla Chaco'I, where you can stroll through the fields. The town is the only one with its own blog, http://concepcionparaguay.blogspot.com, an excellent source of information.

East of Concepción

There is a 215-km road (Ruta 5 - fully paved) from Concepción, eastwards to the Brazilian border. This road goes through Horqueta, Km 50, a cattle and lumber town of 10,000 people. Further on the road is very scenic. From
Yby Yaú
(junction with Ruta 8 south to Coronel Oviedo) the road continues to Pedro Juan Caballero.

Six kilometres east of Yby Yaú a road branches off to the pleasant, uncrowded
Parque Nacional Cerro Corá
(22,000 ha), the site of Mariscal Francisco Solano López' death and the final defeat of Paraguay in the War of the Triple Alliance. There is a monument to him and other national heroes; the site is constantly guarded. It has hills and cliffs (some with pre-Columbian caves and petroglyphs), camping facilities, swimming and hiking trails. The rocky outcrops are spectacular and the warden is helpful and provides free guides. When you have walked up the road and seen the line of leaders' heads, turn right and go up the track passing a dirty-looking shack (straight on leads to a military base). Administration office is at Km 180 on Ruta 5, 5 km east of the main entrance.

Pedro Juan Caballero

This border town is separated from the Brazilian town of Ponta Porã, by a road (Dr Francia on the Paraguayan side, on the Brazilian side either Rua Marechal Floreano or Avenida Internacional): anyone can cross as they please . Ponta Porã is the more modern and prosperous of the two. In addition to liquor and electronics, everything costs less on the Paraguayan side.
Shopping China
is a vast emporium on the eastern outskirts of town and
Maxi
is a large well stocked supermarket in the centre. You can pay in guaraníes, reais or US$, at good exchange rates.
Arte Paraguaya
, Mariscal López y Alberdi, has a good selection of crafts from all over the country.

Border with Brazil

This is a more relaxed crossing than Ciudad del Este. For day crossings you do not need a stamp, but passports must be stamped if travelling beyond the border towns (ask if unsure whether your
destination is considered beyond). Paraguayan
migraciones
, is in the customs building on the eastern outskirts of town near
Shopping China
. Then report to Brazilian federal police in Ponta Porã (closed Sat-Sun). The
Brazilian consulate
, issues visas, fees payable only in guaraníes, take passport and a photo, go early to get visa the same
day.
There is another crossing to Brazil at Bella Vista on the Río Apá, northwest of PJ Caballero; buses run from the Brazilian border town of Bela Vista to Jardim and on to Campo Grande. There is Paraguayan
migraciones
at Bella Vista there but no Brazilian Policia Federal in Bela Vista. To cross here, get Paraguayan exit stamp then report to the local Brazilian police who may give a temporary stamp, but you must later go to the Policia Federal in either Ponta Porã or Corumbá. Do not fail to get the proper stamp later or you will be detained upon re-entering Paraguay.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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