Whetting your appetite for Paraguay: part two
Continued from yesterday
Another reduction worth visiting is the World Heritage listed, Jesus Reduction. The massive church seems to be starker and less magnificent than at Trinidad but still gives you the feeling of having walked into a page of mankind’s history.
A third reduction, San Cosme y Damian, has only been partially restored. It’s worthwhile visiting the huge church with its original walls, the Colegio (school) next to it and the famous 17th century sundial. San Cosme y Damien was very famous due to it being an astronomical centre where one Jesuit, Father Suarez, was studying planets with locally made lenses for his telescope. His book, written at the time, about solar eclipses is still relevant today. A small but very attractive modern observatory has been recently built and allows now night visitors to clearly look at the stars as there is not much light around to muddy the night sky. Maybe space tourism will be the Paraguay’s tourism future.
If you prefer to head for the Camino Franciscano, the Estancia Tacuaty would be a good place to stay overnight as it is a peaceful haven in a nice country landscape. Beautiful horse riding tours are also available there.
On your way to Asuncion, you leave the Jesuit Province. Here you will find numerous Franciscan missions and these are much less known than the Jesuits Reductions. Away from the ideal of Jesuits which meant the banning of all non-Indians from the reductions, the Franciscans were more open to a mixed population.
There were many Franciscan Reductions around Asuncion but, if pressed for time, the one to see is the church of Yaguaron. It’s the only one remaining in its original form. It is a long white building with two light porticos running the whole length of the church and then it has a completely separate wooden clock tower. From outside the building seems a bit simple, but the surprise is inside. It has a totally painted ceiling, a fabulous wooden carved pulpit and the ‘retablo’ wooden wall behind the altar leaves visitors lost for words in front of such a blazing scenery. To increase your surprise, the guides like to open the church door just enough for you to enter inside the darkened building. Quickly closing the door behind you have no window and no light. The guide helps you to sit on a chair, and suddenly a single small ray of light gives life to a statue in a corner. And then another ray profiles the detail of the carved pulpit. Finally, the church is completely highlighted. Now you don’t have to imagine what every church in the Reductions looked like: you can see it.
If you have been surprised by the simplicity of the outside silhouette of the church of Yaguaron, then the Romanesque front side of the Ybaroty Franciscan church in Villarica will amaze you even more. It seems just like an Italian church from a Tuscany village!
There are many more Franciscan sites to visit, more than 20 of them. On your way to Asuncion you can visit in just one day, two or three churches, if you want to, and one or two museums. But leave time for the craft shops. This region of Paraguay is the centre of craftsmanship. It’s the best place for local shopping.
Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, is the finale of your cultural visit. The city offers a large variety of hotels. Your choice depends on budgets, but if you want to stay right in the centre of Asuncion, Las Margaritas presents the most tasteful and is a luxury of a cocoon away from the rest of the bustle of the city. A bit more standard, Granados Park Hotel, is just opposite. Both these two are in the heart of the town and everything you probably want to see is within easy walking distance. There is not too much to see in Asuncion, aside from a few monuments, museums, churches and a craft market.
If you do not need to be in the middle, the very best option is for a family-owned boutique-hotel such as the Villa Morra Suites. A bit expensive but it is worth the splurge owing to the excellent customer service. Guest are really pampered with meals served around the attractive swimming pool.
A special mention must go to the Golf and Yacht Resort that is at the edge of the city and located on the river. The rooms are quite big, but unimaginative in decoration. As its name suggests, this hotel is between the river and the golf course. The hotel guests have a direct access to the 18 hole golf course along the riverbank and amid beautiful gardens. An 18 hole green fee is offered to the hotel guests on a daily basis.
In just a couple of days, this is what is likely to be suggested to you and, as an introduction to the country, it’s a good taster. By then you’ll have developed a desire to see what else this ‘unknown’ country has to offer.
For more information on Paraguay and the various places mentioned above, check out