Encarnación (Dept. Itapua)
Known as the “Perla del Sur” (Pearl of the South) Encarnación is fast becoming one of Paraguay´s hottest summer vacation spots thanks to the newly inaugurated “Costanera” project. Using funds from the Yacyretá hydroelectric dam the city has created eight kilometers of riverside roads and boardwalks, three kilometers of which are sandy beaches. Encarnación is a great base of operations for a fun summer trip. If you´re looking for a dose of culture head to the nearby Jesuit Ruins. If you´d rather party after the sun goes down visit during Carnaval season (this year from Jan 21st – Feb 18th). From Encarnacion you can easily head over the border to Argentina (crossing in to the city of Posadas) or travel north on Rt. 6 through Paraguay’s yerba mate production region to Ciudad del Este and continue on to Iguazu Falls. Check out this post from Paraguayan photo-blogger Cazador de Instantes to get a look at Encarnación and scroll down to the Playa San José (the city´s other two beaches are San Isidro and Mbói Ka’é). When finalized the Costanera is projected to be 27 kilometers long, so hopefully there will be even more beaches to enjoy in the future.
Travel info: Encarnación is at the end of Rt. 1, 370 kilometers from Asuncion and easily accessible by bus (tickets cost between Gs. 60,000 and Gs.70,000) and car. Recommended hotels include Hotel Germano (simple and cheap, Tel: 071 203 346), Hotel Arthur, and Hotel Tirol. Advanced reservations are required during Carnaval season.
Rancho Laguna Blanca, Santa Rosa del Aguaray (Dept. San Pedro)
With its picturesque white sandy beach and thatched “umbrellas” Laguna Blanca is often featured in Paraguay´s tourism pamphlets, and rightly so. The lake is pristine, with crystal clear waters and a shallow beach perfect for sunbathing adults and frolicking children. There are kayaks and rowboats for those who want to venture in to deeper water and ample opportunities to spot the area´s unique birdlife (the area was recently declared a nature reserve and the nature conservation NGO Para La Tierra operates on the premises). Though there are rustic guest accommodations this is a fun spot for beach camping. Only 100 people are allowed at a time (advanced reservations are required) and during the week it can feel like you are on your own private beach. More information at www.lagunablanca.com.py
Travel info: Laguna Blanca is located approximately 300 kilosmeters from Asunción along Rt. 3 and is accessible by car and, with a little advanced planning, by bus. If traveling by bus take a bus headed to either Concepción (via Rt. 3, not via the Trans Chaco – this is important to verify when buying the tickets) or Pedro Juan Caballero. Get off at Santa Rosa del Aguaray (270 kms from Asunción), then catch either a local bus or a taxi for the remaining 27 kilometers to Laguna Blanca. Check here for more information on local buses so you can get the timing right. There are no options for purchasing food nearby so plan on either bringing your own food to cook over the fire or paying for full room and board.
Playa Dorada, Puerto Vallemí (Dept. Concepción)
Just in case Laguna Blanca isn´t secluded enough for you. Playa Dorada is located at the very northeastern tip of Eastern Paraguay at the confluence of the Río Paraguay and Río Apa. Brazil is just across the river, but there is no formal crossing point. Walking along this long stretch of remote beach, it can truly feel like you are the only person around (though there is a tiny Brazilian military base on the other side). Be careful when swimming though as there are fresh water sting rays – how much more of an adventure can you ask for? If you´ve headed to Vallemí in order to catch the Aquidaban as it travels upriver to Bahía Negra (more about this trip here) then visiting Playa Dorada will make for a good excursion.
Travel Info: 600 kilometers from Asuncion, Vallemí is accessible by car, bus or boat, though the trip isn´t particularly easy. By car head north to Concepción and then take the dirt road that leads 200kms north to Vallemí (it is slowly being paved). There are daily buses from Concepción to Vallemí as well (Gs. 60,000). There are two passenger boats that stop in Vallemí, with the trip downriver being faster and a little less crowded. The Cacique II departs from Asunción on Tuesday nights arriving in Vallemí Friday afternoon and heads back to Asunción on Friday night. The Aquidaban departs from Concepción on Tuesday morning, arrives in Vallemí on Wednesday midday and continues to Bahía Negra. On its return trip it stops in Vallemí on Saturday afternoon. Travel on either boat falls under the categories of “adventure” and “roughing it.” Playa Dorada is about 8 kilometers from Vallemí and the best way to get there is to borrow or rent a motorcycle from someone in town.