Those used to seeing backpackers traveling in droves throughout Latin America will be surprised to see just how few make their way to Paraguay. Nevertheless, backpacking in Paraguay is a rewarding challenge. On the one hand, foreign visitors are few and far between, and as such there are few resources tailored specifically to backpackers (such as hostels or English speakers). On the other hand, it is generally safe and locals are very friendly and helpful. Basic language skills, a flexible travel plan, and desire to engage with the locals are essential as you prepare to step off the beaten path.
Accommodation, food, and transportation are generally highly affordable, though in some cases you get what you pay for. In many cases, public transportation will get you within walking distance of your destination. Paying a local to drive you or hitch hiking are also often options for traveling those last few kilometers.
Backpackers should note that travel in rural Paraguay is not without potential dangers, most revolving around the extreme climate and bad road conditions. While some of Paraguay’s more popular attractions, such as Iguazu Falls (technically just over the border in Brazil and Argentina) and the Jesuit Ruins of Trinidad, are easily visited on your own, others, such as the Chaco, are best visited with guided tours.
Nature observation trips in particular are best made with the help of a knowledgeable guide as remote locations can be difficult (and potentially dangerous) to reach unaccompanied. Visitors with limited time and language skills will also benefit from joining guided tours. The most popular tour packages include Iguazu Falls and Itaipu Hydroelectric Reserve, the Jesuit Ruins, and the Golden Circuit, a series of traditional small towns surrounding Asuncion. Tour operators and private guides are happy to put together specialized tours, although you should expect to pay a premium for this service. With the exception of Fauna Paraguay, the following companies operate out of Asuncion. One interesting result of Paraguay’s nascent tourism industry is that there are a handful of trained guides who do not have steady work with established tour operators. For many, the small number of tourists means they must have other jobs in order to support themselves. Certain areas of the country have guide associations that will put together a tour upon request. The advantage of this is that you are supporting a local industry and more than likely paying less than you would for a tour originating in Asuncion. However expect some extra legwork. Guides will probably have to take time off from their regular jobs, so advanced notice is almost always necessary. Payment may be expected upfront (or at the beginning of the day) in order to cover the rental of vehicles or other necessary equipment. This option is especially recommended for Spanish speakers (guides rarely speak English) and backpackers willing to splurge to make it to sights that would be otherwise difficult to reach on public transportation.
DTP Tour Operator Tel: 021 449 724, General Bruguez 353 almost at 25 de Mayo, www.dtp.com.py, firstname.lastname@example.org
Intertours Tel: 021 211 747, Avenida Peru 436 almost at Avenida Espana,
www. intertours. com.py, www. martintravel. com.py, incoming@intertours. com.py
Guides Specializing in Nature Observation
For guides based in the Chaco, see Chaco Tour Guides.
Birding Paraguay/Guyra Paraguay Guyra Paraguay, a birding and nature conservation NGO, offers a wide variety of birding tours through their Birding Paraguay program. Tours are offered to all of Paraguay’s important birding areas and include ornithological guides. In addition, Birding Paraguay can help arrange personalized private tours for birders with specific interests. Tel: 021 229 097, Corner of Gaetano Martino and Teniente Ross, www.guyra.org.py, on Facebook, birding.paraguay@gmail. com
Fauna Paraguay Based out of Encarnacion, Paul Smith specializes in wildlife and birding tours throughout the country. He has contributed to several well-known travel guidebooks and has indepth knowledge of Paraguay’s fauna, flora, and culture. There are several good simple itineraries complete with details on species you may see in each destination on the Fauna Paraguay website. www.faunaparaguay.com/tours.html, on Facebook, faunaparaguay@yahoo. com. ar
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