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.
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 !
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. Yes, It’s the hottest country in South America (39°c when we were there). Yes, it’s the second poorest country in South America and finally yes, 85% 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 far from being Americanised (a change from Brazil), very cheap, with great food, an interesting culture and curious local who love to speak and share their terere (cold herbal mate) !
We only decided to go to Encarnacion for Carnival and visit the ruins but we discussed for a while going deep into the country and discovering the Chaco National Park which seemed a good alternative to the Amazon. Check it out on Google, it seems to be a beautiful place to go to. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay longer as we had to be 3000 km down south in Patagonia by early March. But we did a few things and we would like to share it with you.
The City :
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 since ! We walked around town a few times and felt really safe in the street 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 Jesuit ruins :
Encarnacion is also quite known for its promiscuity with the Jesuit ruins of Jesus and Trinidad. We wrote an entire article about these 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.
The Carnival :
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 a very important event in the country. People 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 a whole article with a lot of pictures showing skin, dance moves… and beautiful costumes.
We thought 5 days 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.
- 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 stoppes every single car and investigate it very deeply.
- During this already long ride, somebody got sick in the toilets and we had to stop another 2 hours to clean the toilets and then listen to our bus attending asking us to be respectful and to be sick outside the bus… hilarious. But this bus journey which was supposed to last 16 hours, end up being 20 hour long.
Our schedule :
Feb 1st – Arrived end of afternoon in the city. Walked around town and chilled at the hostel.
Feb 2nd – Took a Bus to ruins of Trinidad and Jesus – Hitchhiked back to Trinidad and bus back into town.
Feb 3rd – Beach time – Chill day
Feb 4th – Prepared for Carnival & partied in a thunderstorm!
Feb 5th – Rained all day unfortunately so we recovered from Carnival, worked on the blog and ate an amazing BBQ at the bus terminal comedor.
Feb 6th – Walked to the municipal market for lunch and by the beach before departing to Buenos Aires in the evening.
Costs and useful info
Currency change in February 2017: 1 € = 6100 Gs
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.
Entrance for the 3 missions (Trinidad, Jesus and): 25000 Gs pp
Bus A / R Encarnacion -> Trinidad = 20000 Gs pp
Bus to Trinidad -> Jesus = 3000 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).