Finding vegetarian food in Paraguay is like shopping for snowboards on Raratonga.
It’s even more meat-orientated than Brazil or Argentina but without the strong Italian influence that we found in those countries (pizza and pasta are often our saviours). In fact, even the meat-eating American Peace Corp volunteers we met were sick of the amount of meat consumed in Paraguay – every day and every meal involved a chunk of meat of dubious origin. ‘Roast catgut? Again? Now you’re really spoiling us…’
The big downside to being a vegetarian is not being able to sample much traditional cuisine and not being able to take advantage of cheap street food. It’s tricky, because food is a big part of any culture but we did manage to find a few local dishes. Mostly though, we survived by not eating Paraguayan.
In Part 1 of our Paraguay guide we shared our experiences of travelling to Ciudad del Este, Encarnacion, Trinidad Jesuit Ruins and Parque Nacional San Rafael. In this post we continue our journey through this little visited country and share what we learned along the way.
San Ignacio is a small town located between Encarnacion and Asuncion. We stopped to visit the Jesuit museum and to relax at the San Ignacio Country Club. There’s not much to see in the town but it’s pleasant to wander around and enjoy being the only tourists. After asking directions four times we finally found the Jesuit musuem in a beautiful old building. Needless to say we were the only visitors but a guide came along to show us around. Religious artefacts aren’t really our thing but, like at the Trinidad ruins, having the place to ourselves added to the attraction.
There’s no guidebook to Paraguay and we hadn’t met anyone who’d been there. No-one seemed to know much about this mysterious country in the centre of South America. This is why we wanted to visit – it seemed the ideal opportunity to get off the gringo trail and have that elusive “off the beaten track” experience. We didn’t regret our choice: we found a pretty, tranquil country with a crazy history, friendly people and no other tourists (well, we met three in three weeks). Our Spanish also benefited as no-one spoke English, and locals were curious about us so we had plenty of opportunities to practice.
Paraguay isn’t a place to visit for big name attractions – it’s a place for enjoying simple pleasures, appreciating the slow pace of life and trying to get under the skin of a different culture. That said, you will find UNESCO World Heritage sites, Jesuit ruins and museums, unspoilt countryside, a huge variety of colourful bird life, adventurous river trips and plenty of national parks for walks and wildlife-spotting.
Information is lacking about Paraguay so in this guide we aim to share practical details about our experiences.
Although we’d been couchsurfing hosts before, and it’s on our list, it’s taken us a while to actually get around to surfing someone else’s couch. To be honest we were rather nervous about staying in a stranger’s house, and not sure what to expect. Finally, in Paraguay, we went for it and, boy, are we glad we did. Big Mexican feasts, games of flaming football, a Paraguayan rave and much hilarity ensued and we present here our top reasons to Surf that Couch: