Located approximately 50km from Asunción, Caacupe is surrounded by a range of hills that rise abruptly from the Paraguayan lowlands. The hills are not overly high, rising to little more than 300 metres, but they make the air a little fresher here than in Asunción.
Caacupe is the religious centre of Paraguay. For most of the year, it is a quiet country town. Then in December for a couple of weeks, the town is filled with pilgrims coming to visit the Virgin of Caacupe for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception.
In order to cope every year with the sudden arrival of thousands of visitors, Caacupe has a better infrastructure and wider range of services and restaurants than might otherwise be expected in a small country town.
It is a very pleasant place in which to live. The town is clean, welcoming and well provisioned. Beyond the town itself, there is a large amount of upland scenery of hills and hidden waterfalls asking to be walked and explored.
What is Caacupe like?
Outside the Feast of the Immaculate Conception Caacupe is a quiet and well-equipped country town. The need to deal with large numbers of pilgrims has given the town-wide streets and a number of large open plazas.
The largest of these is in front of the basilica and can accommodate thousands of worshippers. Another is home to a large children’s adventure playground.
The streets of the town a generally clean and well kept. Again things are a little different during the festival, but all the rubbish left behind by visitors to the town is soon swept away leaving the streets near spotless once more.
The town centre is located astride the main Ruta 2 which runs from Asunción to Ciudad del Este. Despite being Paraguay’s main east-west road it is quiet enough to be crossed without hazard by pedestrians. The Ruta gives quick and direct access to Asunción and is paved along its entire length.
Ruta 2 splits Caacupe in two. On one side is the city centre where you can find the basilica and most shops and restaurants.
The town centre is compact enough to be easily explored on foot and in addition to gift shops it is well stocked with supermarkets, hardware shops, home electrical suppliers and cafés.
Caacupe is the county town of the district of Cordillera and so is home to the electric company’s regional offices and various phone companies and the like.
On the other side of the Ruta, the districts tend to be more residential than commercial with just a small number of family-owned stores scattered throughout them.
What is shopping and dining out like in Caacupe?
Caacupe is the local regional centre and the retail hub serving the surrounding towns. You will find more shops in Caacupe than in other towns of comparable size in Paraguay.
The town has a number of large modern supermarkets all stocked with a wide range of items including some imported and stocked solely for the benefit of the local expat community.
You can get clothing, sportswear and household goods in a number of modern town centre shops.
As for eating out, everything from street food to fine dining can be found throughout the town: you can feast on freshly cooked Paraguayan empanadas and sopa or visit exclusive restaurants with international menus.
For more exclusive options there are a number of high-quality restaurants and steakhouses in Caacupe. On the whole, these are located a little way outside the centre amongst greenery and more open spaces. One of these is the restaurant De Las Sierras. It is considered to be one of the very best in the country.
Or you can simply enjoy freshly squeezed fruit juices in a juice bar or coffee in a pavement café watching the world go by.
What is the area around Caacupe like?
Caacupe sits in a valley in the hills of the Cordillera de Los Altos. The hills rise sharply from the Paraguayan lowlands but do not reach great heights.
The countryside around Caacupe is a scenic place with grassy plains, steep hillsides and small upland rivers. All of which has a generous covering of trees many of which are the palm trees that are very common in the area.
This makes for the sort of scenery that asks to be walked and explored. The majority of the expats in the area chose to make their homes outside town in the countryside from where there are good transport connections to Caacupe and beyond.
Much of the area is occupied only by small settlements and isolated homesteads. This keeps the areas around Caacupe rural and full of green open spaces.
The two nearest towns to Caacupe are Tobati, a centre of traditional wood carving, and Atyra, a pleasant small highland town. Both are about 10 miles from Caacupe.
Where to live in Caacupe
The town of Caacupe is a good place to live with all its modern conveniences and shopping and dining opportunities.
However, the most expats choose to live in the rural countryside that surrounds the town.
You too may feel that country living with easy access to a modern town is the best of both worlds.
If you do want to live in the town itself, look at the streets around the cathedral and Barrio Loma Centro opposite it on the other side of Ruta 2. They are ideally placed for pedestrian access to the compact town centre and within walking distance of the majority of the shops and restaurants.
Caacupe has no truly run-down areas and all the districts of the town have areas of good quality housing within them.
Outside the centre, the district of Cabanas on the road to Asunción is at the very edge of the urban area and benefits from being both urban and rural at once. It also overlooks a wide green valley.
Then once into the rural countryside, the options are almost limitless. Fine rural properties can be found in every direction. Some are just a house and grounds, and others set in a few hectares of private parkland.
Areas to avoid
Although there is nowhere in Caacupe that is run-down or dangerous there are a few places that you would be best advised to choose not to live.
Within the town, one of these is the Barrio Yvoty. This is very convenient for the largest supermarket in town. It is though also home to the regional hospital. As such it can be quite a busy place and a constant stream of hospital visitors make the streets hectic and parking almost impossible.
Another district to avoid is the Barrio Industrial. This is home to exactly what its name suggests. In addition to the constant noise and dirt of the factories, there is a constant stream of trucks and lorries coming and going.
Two further places to avoid are on the edges of urban Caacupe. Housing there is continually creeping up the roads to Atyra and Tobati. If you want a house on one of these roads, make sure you have at least two or three miles between you and the edge of Caacupe to avoid being at some point swallowed up by a shanty town.
Local expat groups
Caacupe is home to a sizeable a long-established expat community the majority of whom are from Europe and Germany in particular.
Only a few have made their home in the town itself with most finding their perfect home in the surrounding countryside.
As the community is dispersed in this manner there are no formal expat organisations in Caacupe.
However, people do regularly get together informally in bars and restaurants to maintain the bonds of community and discuss the matters of the day.
These people are welcoming and keen to share advice and experience with newcomers. Any of the foreign-owned restaurants will be able to point you in the right direction.
Is Caacupe expensive?
Caacupe in common with the whole of Paraguay is extremely good value. Produce is of good quality and offered at very reasonable prices.
Due to the nature of the town life here is a little more expensive than in the surrounding areas. Despite this, a meal in a restaurant will come to no more than about $10 to $15 (£7 to £11) and a bottle of wine in a supermarket around $5 (just under £4).
Day-to-day expenses are low with monthly utility bills totalling approximately $50 (£36) with another $30 (£22) for a good quality internet connection.
To rent a property costs at least $200 (£145) per month depending upon the size and to buy a good one the prices start from $150,000 (£110,000).
A fine countryside property with extensive gardens, land and a river would cost considerably more. The finest examples approach $1,000,000 (£725,000). Even at that price, such a property could be considered good value as you will be getting far more for your money than you would elsewhere.
Is Caacupe good for families?
In some respect, Caacupe is a good place for families with children. It is a safe environment full of large open spaces.
For children, there are ice crème parlours and juice bars in addition to its playgrounds. Beyond the centre there are woods, hills and streams to explore and clean fresh air.
However here as in much of Paraguay education would be a problem. There are a number of good schools in town such as Jose Maria Farina and the Catholic Pbro. Daniel Escurra but there are no international or bilingual schools.
These are only to be found in Asunción which is too far for a daily commute.
Therefore, whilst a family would find Caacupe a very healthy environment in which to bring up children educating them would potentially be a problem.
Travelling around town
The centre of Caacupe is compact enough to walk on all but the hottest of days. Its streets are a pleasant place for a leisurely stroll.
To travel a little further a car is probably the best option. The town is simple to navigate and in most areas parking is not a problem.
Alternatively, you can find taxi ranks on many street corners. The taxis are safe and inexpensive and will get you anywhere inside or outside the town.
Living in Caacupe – summary
A pleasant country town surrounded by some fine scenery all within easy reach of the capital, Caacupe is a good place to live.
It is a culturally important place in Paraguay and having to deal with the pilgrims that come every year the town has acquired a modern infrastructure and wide clean streets.
Along with those came the sort of eating and shopping opportunities not normally found in a town of its size.
There is a sizeable and long-established expat community most of whom at scattered across the green, open countryside that is all around Caacupe.
For a quiet country life these districts offer that could be asked for of a dream house overlooking small streams and rolling hills and relaxation under the starry skies.