An air of mystery hangs over this under-explored pocket of South America. From the wild impenetrable Chaco in the northwest to the lush forests of the southeast, there is an incredible diversity of flora and fauna, a number of rivers to navigate and many opportunities to experience rural tourism.
Although dwarfed by its giant neighbours Brazil and Argentina, Paraguay covers some 407,000 sq km, roughly the size of California, and sits at the confluence of six important eco-regions.
This landlocked country has a strange history of intrepid missionaries, charismatic leaders and bloody wars, yet embodies a spirit of steadfastness and isolation not found elsewhere on the continent. Paraguayans are proud of their indigenous Guaraní culture, evident in the widespread use of its language, which is taught in schools and is spoken daily by roughly half of the population. Although difficult to pronounce for many outsiders, the Guaraní language does not mask the warmth of Paraguayan hospitality, perhaps best known through its ubiquitous drink yerba mate (Ilex paraguariensis), traditionally given to all visitors.
Today the country is part of the Latin American and Caribbean Economic System, with trade routes to Argentina and Brazil well established and an asphalt road to Bolivia finally completed. Famed for its arduous but rewarding treks, Paraguay’s infamous Ruta 9, the Trans-Chaco Highway, remains one of the great road adventures in South America, and a journey along the length of either of the country’s two major rivers, the Río Paraguay or the Río Paraná, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience.