Paraguay has an abundance of various locations favoured by expats from colonial cities to sandy beaches to the unspoilt rural countryside.
Here are gathered together a selection of Paraguay’s best places to live: from its oldest city to its youngest, from an artistic colony to the country’s religious centre.
All are welcoming places with established expat communities. Each has something different to offer and they all provide insights into aspects of Paraguayan life.
Paraguay may lack gleaming modern cities but that is more than made up for by its unspoilt countryside and pleasant rural towns. These towns and cities are all in Eastern Paraguay which is where the majority of the population live and which is the most developed region of the country.
Asunción – the most cosmopolitan place in the country
Asunción is where Paraguay connects with the world. Home to both the international airport and the country’s principal port, Asunción for most people is their first introduction to the country.
Those same connections help to draw people from all across Paraguay towards Asunción in a quest for work and wages. Half the population now lives within an area loosely described as Greater Asunción.
All this makes Asunción the beating heart of Paraguay and the point to which all roads lead.
Asunción is by far the most cosmopolitan city in the country. Here a coffee can be enjoyed in a pavement side café and fine dining in an international restaurant.
It is one of the worlds quietest and most relaxed capital cities. Even more so on a Sunday when the city centre shops are shut and the streets all but deserted.
Even during the week there is little haste in the air under the hot tropical sun. The residents make good use of the many benches set under the generous shade of lapachos in the numerous green, tree-filled plazas.
Paraguay lies beyond the well-trodden tourist trails and so visitors have never arrived in great numbers. One who did was Graham Greene who found happiness in Asunción where he lived, writing for a couple of years in the early 1970s.
In just a short while here you will come to realise that Asunción is really three cities in one. The historic centre, the surrounding districts and the nearby towns that the growing city has swallowed up on its way to creating Greater Asunción.
Of these it is the historic centre and a number of the modern districts that have the most to offer.
Asunción was for a long time a small city built around the shores of a bay on the Rio Paraguay. This is the historic centre and it contains many fine 19th century buildings. It is compact enough to explore on foot.
Here amongst the buildings and museums of Paraguay’s history, you can find the main shopping street, Calle Palma, home to cafés, restaurants, shopping in both national and international brands and the handicrafts of Paraguay.
Between this and the waters of the bay, you can find the new Costanera – a sweeping boulevard asking to be walked and offering both sandy beaches and views across the water.
During the 20th century Asunción spread unstoppably in every direction from the city center.
Districts of differing character sprung up wherever it went.
Villa Morra and its neighbours 4 miles from the centre are the most appealing. These are among the most modern and affluent of the districts of Asunción.
These districts have modern shopping malls, light and airy and filled with international stores and very popular food courts. They also have the largest concentration of good quality restaurants. In addition to the traditional steakhouses, you can find restaurants offering tastes from across Europe and Asia.
Asuncion being the largest city in the country and having the most variety to offer has something for everyone and is an easy place in which to live.
It offers a relaxed life in peaceful surroundings with all the modern amenities and services at hand for retirement. Then for the younger, it is a city full of trees that has ample shopping, good nightlife and parks to enjoy.
Villaricca – the highest standard of living
Set in amongst the hills of central Paraguay is the town of Villaricca.
It is a very pleasant town of cobbled streets and orange trees. The town has some of the best-preserved colonial architecture in the country and as such is considered one of the most historically important towns in the country.
Columned houses line the streets and up on the hilltop above the town sits its fine cathedral.
Its hillside location and wooded surroundings keep temperatures a little fresher in Villaricca than in the lowlands that cover much of Paraguay. This helps to give the residents of the town the highest standard of living in the country.
Also aiding the quality of life is the long-standing cultural history of the town. It has long been a university town and a centre of learning. More figures in the history of Paraguayan arts and thinking have come from Villaricca than anywhere else outside Asunción.
All across town, there are numerous recreational, social and cultural associations along with the stadiums, theatres and festivals in which to enjoy them. The town also has fine parks and lakes for walking and relaxing.
Villaricca also has a long history of European settlement. The largest of these settler groups was that from Germany. There is still a large German expat community as can been seen from the Germanic architecture prevalent across the town.
The cuisine of the expat community offers the finest dining in Villaricca. There are a number of good quality restaurants, bars and cake shops whose fine quality produce is waiting to be sampled.
There are beautiful woods around Villaricca interrupted by the large sugar cane plantations. The best forest areas are in the Ybyturuzu mountain range that rises behind the town. This is an excellent walking country and if you are fond of hiking, you can enjoy paths leading through the trees to viewpoints and hidden waterfalls.
Villaricca is a very pleasant place in which to live. It’s especially good for retirement as it is a place with a long-established expat community that is used to welcoming newcomers from overseas. Those younger will find Villaricca a suitable place to start a business either in catering in the town or in agriculture in the surrounding countryside whilst enjoying the hillside walks.
Caacupe – a countryside living close to amenities
Caacupe is located in a low range of hills approximately 50km from Asunción and is the religious centre of the country.
The town is dominated by the large modern Basilica of Our Lady of the Miracles which houses the carving of the Virgin of Caacupe.
The basilica roof is one of the highest points in town and from there it can be seen what a green town Caacupe is. Trees appear more numerous than houses and very often it is difficult to distinguish where amongst the greenery the roads run.
Caacupe is for most of the year a quiet country town. Then in a couple of weeks surrounding the Feast of the Immaculate Conception on 8th December pilgrims flock to the town in their thousands to visit the Virgin of Caacupe.
Once the festival is over and the crowds disperse Caacupe soon returns once more to being a quiet place. Having though to deal with visitors in such numbers the town has acquired an infrastructure far superior to what might otherwise be expected in a small country town.
The town has wide clean streets, large plazas and by far the best shopping options in the area. The gift shops contain much the same as can be found in Asunción but at a far lower cost.
There are also a number of modern cafés and some good restaurants. Reflecting the local expat community a number of these are German-owned and offer European cuisine to their clientèle.
The expat community in Caacupe is long established and rather than focused in the town is instead thinly spread across the green pastures and tree covered hillsides that surround the town.
Many of those hills are ideally suited to walking and exploring with ample tree cover to provide shelter from the sun.
Caacupe with its countryside, playgrounds and ice crème parlours would provide the perfect safe and healthy environment for any family with children. The only issue would be education for although there are good private schools in the area, they do unsurprisingly teach in Spanish.
For those seeking a quieter life, the beauty of the surrounding countryside is the draw. There are ample unspoilt spots in which a dream house could be placed. All of which are within easy reach of the amenities of both Caacupe and Asunción.
San Bernardino – modern lakeside living
San Bernardino or as it is more commonly known San Ber has long been the summer capital of Paraguay.
It is the place for the well off from Asunción to decamp for the summer to enjoy its beaches and entertainments. Situated just 50km from Asunción it is within easy reach of the capital.
The recent redevelopment of Encarnacion has drawn some of the holidaymakers elsewhere, but San Bernardino is still a crowded and lively place on a hot summer weekend.
The summer season in Paraguay lasts only from December to February, and outside these times San Bernardino reverts to being a well-appointed lakeside town.
Tourism is the main driver of the economy in San Bernardino. Hotels, restaurants, nightclubs and bars are plentiful and on the whole on a par with those found elsewhere in the world due the income visitors bring to the town.
The long sandy beaches, of the kind expected in an oceanfront resort, line the shore of Lake Ypacarai – the largest lake in the country. Every house and hotel has its pool, for as tempting as the lake waters may look, the lake has many inlets and no outlets which causes pollution to build up as the sun evaporates the water.
There is however another side to San Bernardino which was in place long before the tourists arrived.
The town is not Paraguayan but was instead set up as a German colony in the late 19th century. It has remained very much a German town at heart right down to the present day. There are a number of good German restaurants and bakeries to be found in town serving solidly European fare.
Being built upon a German colony the town retains a large expat community which is largely German in nature.
Few live in the town itself but instead have their homes in the wooded countryside that surrounds it. You would be best advised to look there for accommodation for in doing so you will be within easy reach of the town and its facilities but far enough away not to be disturbed by the fiestas of summertime.
Finally, San Bernardino also holds a weekly market of clothes, homemade food, crafts and household goods. It is quite unlike other markets in Paraguay being run by the expat community in the European style.
For anyone coming to Paraguay, San Bernardino is worth serious consideration. It is a clean, modern and well-run town with the bonus of having a beach resort attached. Its European heritage and large expat community make it an ideal location from which to get a gentle introduction to the Paraguayan lifestyle.
Piribebuy – a peaceful no-stress life near nature
The small town of Piribebuy is located in hill country approximately 80km from Asunción.
The unspoilt countryside that surrounds it and its ease of access to Asunción make it a popular spot for those wishing to escape the busy streets of Asunción.
All around the town there is fine upland scenery. Palm tree covered hills, waterfalls and crystal clear streams.
The air here is cooler and fresher than in lowland Paraguay and wildlife is abundant in the woods and amongst the rocks.
The many streams flow close still to their highland sources and so run clear and untainted by pollution. In many places they have been incorporated into country parks for bathing on a hot day.
A few of these parks such as Chololo and Pinamar have become large holiday parks with restaurants and accommodation, most though are small and family owned.
With so many streams in the area there are plenty of properties available with their own stretch of water. Your own private bathing pool can easily be found.
The green spaces and rocky outcrops invite exploration. On foot or for the more adventurous on a mountain bike. This is one of the areas of Paraguay where the active enjoyment of the countryside is encouraged.
The clean highland air and the scattered population make Piribebuy a very relaxing place to live.
The town itself sits at the centre of the district and in addition to its delights for tourist, Piribebuy is also known nationwide for its beautiful colonial-era buildings.
Piribebuy is a quiet country town serving in its relaxed manner the surrounding countryside and the summer visitors.
In the green spaces around Piribebuy an expat community has grown, drawn by the atmosphere of the town. It is still not large in number and remains scattered. There are no expat groups as such but the Swiss resutrant on the edge of town acts as a focal point.
Here you can also find the best food in town in what is the only international restaurant in the district.
To live in Piribebuy is easy. It is an ideal destination for anyone seeking a peaceful life near nature and away from the stresses of modern life. Even the Paraguayans are aware of this. All across Piribebuy there are holiday and second homes visited just a few times a year.
Read more on what Piribebuy is like for expats in our Piribebuy guide.
Aregua – artistic living inspired by nature
Just 30km from Asunción on the shores of Lake Ypacarai is the small and pleasant town of Aregua.
It is a town of cobbled streets and pillared colonial mansions. The old buildings like the town itself are well maintained and its cobbled streets wind their way down to the shores of the lake from the hilltop above the town where the old church sits.
The lakeshore is designed to be walked along. Paths head off along the shore and take you into nearby woodlands and onto wooden jetties and out into the lake so that you can to enjoy the lake waters on foot.
From town it is also possible to take boating and fishing trips out onto the lake.
Aregua itself has long been know for its craft works and has been an artistic colony for many years.
The town has produced ceramic wears for hundreds of years and these days many Paraguayan artists, painters, sculptors and craft workers have their studios in town.
For anyone of artistic inclinations, there is no better place in Paraguay to be. Be that painting on the shores of the lake or writing under the shade of a lapacho.
The flourishing artistic scene has drawn over the years a sizeable expat community. Some come to practice their art and others to enjoy a relaxing retirement browsing the town’s many galleries.
Aregua also offers a number of good restaurants, the best of which are German run along with many fine crafts shops and a good market.
Art however is not the main driver of the local economy. That instead is agriculture and the is much good agricultural land in the area.
The local speciality is strawberries and Aregua is even know as the City of Strawberries.
When they are in season strawberries are sold on every street corner and in every shop. Delicious and fresh from the fields.
The town remains a small country town and so not somewhere to head seeking a dynamic fast-paced lifestyle. However for an artist, a retired person or someone interested in small scale farming it may be the perfect place.
Encarnacion – something for everyone
The city of Encarnacion is on the southern edge of Paraguay facing Posadas in Argentina across the Rio Parana.
Due to its southerly location, the climate here is milder than elsewhere in Paraguay. That and its riverside location have earned it the name Pearl of the South.
The beaches nearby have long drawn crowds at holiday times and the completion of the Yacyreta Apipe dam further downstream a few years has given impetus to modernizations all across the town.
The waters that rose as a lake filled behind the dam flooded less of the lower town than had been expected leaving large areas of cleared land suitable for the development of a modern beach resort.
Now Encarnacion has the smart Costanera walkway winding its way along the waterfront and three good quality beaches.
Along with these came a modern infrastructure as well as international restaurants, hotels and bars. The town now draws some of the holiday makers who previously headed every summer to San Bernardino.
As with all of Paraguay, the summer season lasts from just December to February and outside those months the people of the town have the facilities and beaches to themselves.
The summer season ends with the carnival and here in Encarnacion it is the largest and most colourful carnival in the country.
The town has always had a sizeable expat community. The largest numbers have come from Germany, Poland and Ukraine. They have all left their mark on the architecture and cuisine of the town. There are a number of fine Ukrainian churches in Encarnacion.
Heading from here into Argentina is easy – there is a bridge spanning the Rio Parana which makes access into Argentina and onto Buenos Aires simple.
The surrounded countryside is made up of gently undulating farm land and small country villages. In places the slightly cooler air and the farms that have been laid by immigrants from Europe give the land an almost European look about it.
All this makes Encarnacion a good place to live. The city has all the conveniences of a modern town and gentle hinterland of small villages, it also lacks the harshness of climate that can be found deeper in the interior.
It’s an ideal place for living an active live or a peaceful retirement.
Ciudad del Este – the trade centre
Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in Paraguay and its fastest growing. As recently as the 1950s there was nothing but jungle where a city now stands.
The driving force behind Ciudad del Este was the building of the Itaipu Dam across the Rio Parana between Paraguay and Brazil. For many years this was the largest hydroelectric dam on the planet. A tour of the facilities will demonstrate the scale of the project.
The workers town became Ciudad del Este, a city very different to others in Paraguay.
Having been so recently cut out of the jungle the city has no history to display. Instead it is trade that drives almost everything.
The city is a free port and is full of businesses of every kind. Market stalls selling goods of varying degrees of authenticity fill its sidewalks and the city boasts a number of the most modern shopping malls. Here electrical and computer goods can be found at prices far lower than anywhere else in the country.
At times it seems that everyone is on the move and the pace of life can be quite hectic. The Friendship bridge which links the city to Foz in Brazil is filled with all of humanity all day long. A constant stream of people heading backwards and forwards, buying and selling.
All this growth and activity has drawn in people from all corners of the world. The expat communities they have formed are large enough to warrant the existence of foreign consulates, several of which are to be found in the city.
The largest of these communities are from Korea and Lebanon bringing with them the Asian and Middle Eastern tastes that you can enjoy in the city’s restaurants.
The money all this trade has brought to the city is forever adding new buildings and for the population to unwind there are number of casinos, nightclubs and cinemas all doing good business.
Away from the non-stop activity of the city centre, you will find a number of quieter and more peaceful neighbourhoods with relaxing green spaces.
The largest of these is the Lake of the Republic which stands in a parkland well served with walkways and cycle paths.
There are a number of natural spaces nearby. To the south are the Falls on the Rio Monday and to the north a several biospheres reserves created on the edge of the lake that was formed behind the dam.
The greatest natural wonder nearby is not however in Paraguay but on the borders of Brazil and Argentina. These are the Iguazu Falls – one of the top sights of South America. Across the Friendship bridge and onto the falls is an easy day trip from the city.
Ciudad del Este is a busy, lively place full of almost non-stop activity. It may not be the ideal place for those seeking a quiet life but would suit anyone looking for somewhere dynamic full of progress and opportunities. Additionally for families it is one of the few places outside Asunción where English language schools can be found.
The best places to live in Paraguay – final thoughts
As you have seen Paraguay has much to offer and much to recommend it.
The towns and cities above all have well-developed infrastructure and a culture of welcoming newcomers with open arms. Each has its own character. Some quiet and rural, some buzzing with activity, at least during the summer season.
There is though something in Paraguay for everyone. Be that walking amongst the hills, relaxing on the beach, feeling the energy of the city or any of a number of other possibilities.
The land is still on the whole well off the tourist radar and so remains unspoilt by it and is awaiting discovery by all who travel this way.
You might find useful:
- Living In Paraguay – The Expats’ Essential Guide
- Healthcare And Health Insurance For Expats In Paraguay
- Didn’t find what you were looking for or need further advice? Contact us with your question and we will do our best to help.