Encarnacion is situated in the south of Paraguay on the border with Argentina, opposite the Argentine town of Posadas. The two towns face each other on either side of the large river Parana and are linked by a 2.5 km bridge called San Roque Gonzales de Santa Cruz. This is how we entered the country, with a city bus linking the 2 cities/countries.
A couple of words about Paraguay
You might hear a lot of bad things about Paraguay or maybe not hear about it at all… Yes, Paraguay is apparently the most corrupted country outside Africa. It’s also the hottest country and the second poorest country in South America. Finally, as it wasn’t enough, 60% of the land is inhabitable… Whooo, on the paper that can easily discourage a few.
Well, that’s too bad and that is a big miss for the travelers who decide to not visit. What we found was an authentic country, very cheap, with great food, an interesting culture and curious local who love asking questions and sharing their Terere (cold herbal mate)!
The City of Encarnacion
First of all, the city itself was really nice. We really enjoyed the proximity with the river beach so we could go for a morning swim or a late afternoon chill in order to cool down. They didn’t lie, it was 39°c in Encarnacion and every night we had rain and thunder. Something we haven’t seen or heard until Ecuador!
We walked around town a few times and felt really safe in the streets but we could notice that almost all the shops had private security guards with guns and raffles ! We don’t really know if it was to discourage potential theft or as protection in case of an attack. Nothing happened during our stay.
The Jesuits Ruins of Jesus and Trinidad
Encarnacion is also quite known for its promiscuity with the Jesuit ruins of Jesus and Trinidad. We wrote an entire article about these two sites and also even made a funny video in the ruins 🙂
In short, these ruins are a testimony of the Jesuits missions that occurred under the Spanish supervision. The aim of these was to “civilize” and “Christianize” the indigenous people living in the forest : the Guaranis. Check the article here.
Finally, other than the ruins and experimenting the Paraguayan lifestyle, our main intention was to go to the Carnival of Encarnacion. Not very known by tourists, it is however a very important event in the country. People ultimately travel from all around Paraguay to party and dance under the rhythm of the Samba ! Want to see more and read more about it ? We have written a whole article with a lot of pictures showing skin, dance moves… and beautiful costumes. And also created a video showcasing the best moves of the Carnival queens.
Where to head to from Encarnacion?
We only decided to go to Encarnacion for Carnival and visit the ruins but we discussed for a while about visiting the capital Asuncion and going deep into the country to discover the Chaco National Park. Also called the “Green Hell” the park covers more than 60% of the country and is inhabitable. It is however possible to take a boat and cruise along the rivers toward Bolivia, or take a tour in the search of Jaguars.
If you have a bit of time and wish to see more of Paraguay, we encourage you to check out the Chaco which seems to be a beautiful place to go to and share with us your experience. We would be happy to hear about travelers who made it this part of the world.
A couple of Anecdotes :
- Small world… Steven met an Irish guy who grew up only 2 minutes away from his childhood home. We spent Carnival partying with him.
- In the street of Trinidad, a woman screamed at us to “go to the beach” and left… why ?
- While leaving Paraguay we hopped on a night bus to Buenos Aires. It took us 3 hours to pass the same border we crossed 6 days before within 20 min… This is due to the fact many Argentinians travel to Paraguay to buy electronics. The customs therefore stops every single car and investigates them.
- During this already long ride, somebody got sick in the toilets and we had to stop another 2 hours to clean them. We also had to then listen to our bus attending asking us to be respectful and to be sick outside the bus… hilarious. In the end, this bus journey which was supposed to last 16 hours ended up being 20 hours long.
Our schedule :
1st Feb – Arrived end of afternoon in the city. Walked around town and chilled at the hostel.
2nd Feb – Took a Bus to ruins of Trinidad and Jesus – Hitchhiked back to Trinidad and bus back into town.
3rd Feb – Beach time – Chill day
4th Feb – Prepared for Carnival & partied in a thunderstorm!
5th Feb – Rained all day unfortunately so we recovered from Carnival, worked on the blog and ate an amazing BBQ at the bus terminal comedor.
6th Feb – Walked to the municipal market for lunch and by the beach before departing to Buenos Aires in the evening.
We thought 5 nights in Encarnacion was good enough. The city doesn’t have much to offer but with Carnival, the ruins and the beach, it was a good introduction to what the country has to offer.
How to get to Encarnacion from Argentina ?
As you may remember, at the end of our article about San Ignacio, Steven and I decided to leave Argentina quicker than expected as we couldn’t get money out off the ATM and since our next stop was Paraguay we decided to use all our remaining Argentinian pesos to reach Encarnacion… We were so short on change, the bus driver let us in paying 34 ARS instead of 52 ARS as it was all we had (the price was the equivalent of €3.50 for the both of us…).
The border control was the same as in Brazil/Argentina, the bus drove us to the first customs desk in order to stamp out from Argentina. There, the bus didn’t wait for anyone and we both hoped the next bus would not ask us to pay for another ticket as we had absolutely nothing. We found out that our cheap ticket was still valid. So we jumped onto our 2nd bus which drove us across the bridge to the Paraguayan customs desk where we got our stamp in. Once again the bus did not wait and we had to take a third bus to finally reach Encarnacion. Despite this, the administrative formality didn’t take long and we crossed the border in less than 20 min. A very efficient way in !
Costs and useful info
Exchange rate in February 2017: 1 € = 6095 Gs
Bus: Encarnacion -> Trinidad = 20000 Gs pp
Bus to Trinidad: Jesus = 3000 Gs pp
Hostel in Encarnacion : Kerana Hostel = 80000 pp pn (dorm) – we liked this hostel located near the city center and 5 min from the beach. Good breakfast.
(Note: As of May 2017, Kerana Hostel is now closed. The owner has decided to go on a world tour trip)
Entrance for the 3 missions (Trinidad, Jesus and San Cosme): 25000 Gs pp
Entrance Carnival : Sector 1 entrance -> Sector 6 end. We chose the sector 4 right in the middle. There are also VIP and premium stands which are more expensive (110 000+ Gs).
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