Paraguay Paraguay-India - Page 39

SPECIAL REPORT of the south, Concepción enjoyed an economic golden age before being plunged into confl ict during the Paraguayan War. Today, its central streets and cobbled alleys still bear all the hallmarks of a colonial outpost that did very well indeed from its various agricultural pursuits. Visitors embark and disembark from their hop-on, hop-off river cruises up the meanders of the Paraguay River, wonder at the elegant façades and painted Spanish-style churches, and enjoy the sultry tropical airs as they go. 11. La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná Paraguay’s historical piece de resistance can be found set just north of the fun-loving southern hub of Encarnación, rising from the rolling hills just a stone’s throw from the Parana River. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the spot is a fi ne example of a South American Jesuit Reduction. These would once have peppered the Latin lands from Argentina to Bolivia and worked to convert the local Indian populations to Christianity in a non-invasive way. Nowadays, the site showcases crumbling churches and priests’ living quarters, many adorned with European artworks, others complete with a curious intermingling of Indian and Italianesque styles. 12. San Cosme y Damián Jutting its way out into the colossal oxbow lakes and fl ooded plains that swell where the Paraná River weaves along the borderline with Argentina to the south, the village of San Cosme y Damián is a real sight to behold. It comes encompassed by shimmering, palm tree-spotted, yellow- sanded dunes, which ebb and fl ow across the landscape before plunging down directly into the waters. There is also an interesting old Jesuit mission situated nearby, while boat trips and hiking excursions across the shores are a great way to explore the otherworldly vistas and shifting sands. 13. San Bernardino Barred off from the chaos of the capital by the great liquid curve of Lake Ypacaraí, San Bernardino has fi rmly established itself as one of the prime gateways for the moneyed jet setter Asuncenos. Ferries buzz across several times a day from the outer districts of Areguá, depositing folk on the waterside boulevards of Bernardino, between swaying palm trees and the artifi cial sand stretches that have been set up there. Of course, the town has oodles of pubs and discos to let loose in, and partiers fl ock to the plazas with beers and salsa-ready hips right throughout the summer high season (typically running from December to March). 14. Villarrica Set in the shadow of the rugged Ybyturuzú highland ridges, Villarrica is a proud and historically rich Paraguayan town; a place where monuments to national heroes pepper the plazas and some of the country’s most important cultural institutions and traditions are on the line-up. The tourist can lurk the Maestro Fermín López Museum in the heart of town, which showcases collections of old munitions and arms from the Chaco War next to ancient Indian weaponry. Then there are the booming Easter celebrations, which erupt on the squares and between the gorgeous Spanish-style towers of the Franciscan church – one seriously handsome relic of the colonial era to say the least! 15. Bella Vista’s tereré plantations The bitter herbal tea known as tereré is Paraguay’s most beloved beverage. It was exported to Europe in the 19th century and even used as currency, exchanged for boats and building materials. One must head to Bella Vista in the south of the country to take a tour of the immense plantations that pepper the countryside. There’s a saying in Paraguay that people who visit the country always cry twice – once when they arrive, and once when they leave. Emotions might run high in this mellow niche, a nation whose beautiful, the beguiling and baffl ing persona is made all the more alluring by its relative obscurity. ¡Hail Tourist, nos vemos en Paraguay!  * Author is Bureau Chief (Kolkata), Indian Observer Post PARAGUAY 2019 • 39