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World’s 2nd Largest Dam; Itaipu Dam, Paraguay

Waterfalls and dams, like baseball, are rated by stats.

And Itaipu Dam – a hydrocelectic dam between Brazil and Paraguay on the Paraná River – has racked up some pretty impressive numbers.

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Big City Asunción, Paraguay

Asunción – founded on the Feast of the Assumption (August 15, 1537) – was once the colonial capital of southern South America. It still shows at times. At its city center – which runs south-southeast from the Rio Paraguay bay – you’ll see glimpses of colonial facades, balconies and white washed walls then… a second later… it’s replaced by fast food joints, shopping malls and financial buildings.

Progress ain’t always pretty.

And while Asunción may not have a ready-set collection of “must-see” attractions (oh-so-popular in travel guides) there’s still plenty to see and do… if you’re willing to explore on your own for a few days.

You should. You really should. Because Asunción has layers.

And as each layer is pulled back, another, wildly different one is revealed.

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Mennonite Colonies; Gran Chaco, Paraguay

Wanna get away? Then look no further than the Gran Chaco, a vast plain intermixed with marshes and farmland which covers more than 60% of Paraguay.

It’s huge, beautiful… and almost completely untouched.

Wildlife viewing – especially bird watching – is spectacular here, and includes dozens of waterfowl and birds of prey which are easily seen throughout the region (even the road!).

Agriculture here has been developed by over 15,000 German-speaking Mennonites, who moved here from Canada and Russia with hopes of religious freedom. Struggles ensued, and many early settlers died from disease and malnutrition.

But it paid off.

Today’s Mennonites enjoy commercial success by providing most of Paraguay’s dairy products. Their agricultural lifestyle – mixed with the Charo’s untouched beauty – make the Gran Charo an ideal spot for outdoor lovers and those looking to “get away from it all” for awhile.Continue

Carnaval; Encarnacion, Paraguay

Asuncion may be the capital of Paraugay but, when it comes to Carnaval, Encarnacion is where it’s at.

Located just 235 miles (378km) southeast of Asuncion, Encarnacion – dubbed Paraguay’s “Carnaval Capital” – is ideal for younger travelers looking to have a good time.

Dancing Girls, Costumes and Drumbeats: What’s Not To Like?

Beautiful, scantily clad women (moreso than Rio, which says a lot) dance down streets filled loud, thumping drum beats.

Their costumes- and lack thereof – are eye-catching: sparkling mini bikinis, huge headdresses and giant peacock feathers rising from behind are the status quo. Some costumes are three times taller than the dancers themselves, and extend nearly the width of the street.

Floats follow the dancers. They depict one of several themes: Mayan or Aztec gods (which are decorated with precious stones, feathers and ceramics), slaves and traditional African folklore are all popular motifs.

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Untouched Ruins; Trinidad, Paraguay

If you’ve ever wanted a piece of history to yourself, then this will be the most interesting place you’ll visit in Paraguay (if not all of South America).

Both the Jesús and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins – located northeast of Encarnacion, Paraguay – became UNESCO sites in 1993; usually this title sends hordes of visitors and boosts an area’s infrastructure.

Not so with these ruins.

Despite being some of the most impressive Jesuit ruins in all of South America, both the Jesús and Trinidad Jesuit Ruins are remarkably quiet and undeveloped.

This is a good thing. It means that – while you may not enjoy information booths in English – you won’t share sites with crowds of photo-happy tourists.

In fact, you may have the place to yourself. Continue