Nature and the past are key attractions
WELCOMING VISITORS Development of Paraguay’s tourism industry has been given high priority in national strategy

THE REMAINS of some of the largest Jesuit missions settlements, or reducciones, in South America are to be found in Paraguay

SITUATED at the heart of South America, rich in flora and fauna, and offering the visitor a variety of natural, cultural, and historical attractions, Paraguay has great potential for tourism.

Awareness of the extent to which the sector could contribute to the Paraguayan economy, has made the development of the tourism industry a top priority of economic strategy. A Tourism Secretariat has been established, and every effort is being made to position Paraguay in the international tourism market.
“Tourism is an integrated part of central administration projects such as roads and airports, all of which are planned to develop the industry,” says Hugo Galli Romañach, Secretary of Tourism. “Everything is being structured to convert tourism into a tool for national development.”

At the same time, tourism management is being decentralized. The country’s 17 administrative departments are being encouraged to become involved in the promotion of tourism in their own areas, and to act as custodians of their local natural and cultural resources. A number of the departments have already set up their own tourism development councils.

The Chaco is one of South America’s most untouched wildlife habitats

Paraguay’s geographical location gives it a considerable advantage in attracting visitors. “We are at the center of Mercosur, at the axis of the waterway system, and of the bi-oceanic corridor that joins the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans,” points out Mr. Galli.

HUGO GALLI ROMAÑACH Secretary of Tourism

“All of the southern hemispheric strategic development plans cross Paraguayan territory. We occupy a strategic, geopolitical stratum that provides us with a unique opportunity, through well-directed tourist management, to rapidly position Paraguay within the international market.”

Various projects are planned and are underway to promote the country and add variety to what it has to offer the visitor. The Tourism Secretariat has been working on projects centered on the legacy of the Jesuits and the Franciscans with Spain’s International Cooperation Agency.
“We also have other plans, such as the restoration of the 18th-century Spanish forts in the northern region of the country,” says Mr. Galli.

The historic Central Railway Station in Asunción is being restored, and converted into a central information office and database of tourism for the whole country. Paraguay boasts the oldest railway in South America, and historic steam trains are still in use transporting passengers and goods between Asunción and Aregua, on the banks of the Ypacarai lake.

PARAGUAY has potential for eco-tourism, with natural attractions both within and just across its borders

Paraguay’s natural resources are among its strongest selling points. The country boasts 600 to 700 species of birds, more than 200 species of mammals, around 100 species of snakes and reptiles, 60 kinds of amphibians, and 8,000 different types of flora.
“We consider nature to be one of our principal resources, and eco-tourism, adventure tourism, and rural tourism could become our great products,” says Mr. Galli.

An eco-tourism master plan is being formulated with the Inter-American Development Bank.
Bounded and divided by rivers, Paraguay has two distinct regions—the Oriental Region and the larger Occidental Region—separated by the Paraguay River.

Around 97 percent of Paraguay’s 5.8 million population lives in the fertile, semi-tropic eastern region, where most of the major cities are to be found, including Asunción.
East of the capital, the Lake Ypacarai district offers one of the best sites for tourism and outdoor recreation, with lakeside resorts, abundant facilities for visitors, and summer houses.

By contrast, the vast flat area of the country’s western region, known as the Chaco Paraguayo, comprises approximately 60 percent of national territory, but is home to just 3 percent of Paraguayans.
Primarily agricultural, with huge cattle farms, the Chaco is one of the most untouched wildlife habitats in South America. It is an eco-tourist’s dream, home to flamingos, storks, hawks, alligators, wild boars, jaguars, and pumas.
The small human population of this remote region includes some of the last hunter and gatherer peoples to be found on the continent. It is also home to the Mennonites, a religious community of mostly German and Canadian settlers who welcome visitors to their well-ordered colonies, notably Filadelfia and Loma Plata, two of the main cities.

Among Paraguay’s eight national parks, Parque Nacional Ybycuí preserves one of the few remaining areas of tropical forest in the country, while Parque Nacional Cerro Corá offers many important cultural and historical features, including pre-Columbian caves.
At 4.8 miles long and more than 600 feet high, the Itaipu dam, on the Paraná River, has become one of the greatest tourist attractions in South America, while just across the border is one of South America’s leading natural attractions, the Iguaçu Falls.