Paraguay’s Encarnacion is a simple colonial city bursting with local culture. Situated on the nation’s southern border beside Argentina, The city was founded by the Jesuits during the early 17th century.
Because of its location, the city of Encarnacion is just a short local bus ride away from Posadas Argentina. The city has become a shopping spot for a number of Argentines because of its cheap and low-taxed goods. Encarnacion offers a relaxed atmosphere and compared to other major cities in South America, as it definitely belongs to the off the beaten track category.
The city has two distinct parts. The section closest to the edge of Rio Parana is the colonial part of town. While walking in this area, you will get to see the oldest buildings in the city. Some of the notable landmarks are Casa de la Cultura, Cathedral de Encarnacion, and the Plaza de Armas. If possible, plan your visit to Paraguay for January or February when the city hosts the nation’s most famous and extensive Carnival celebrations.
Encarnacion is perhaps most known as the access point to the Jesuit Missions of La Santisima Trinidad de Parana and Jesus de Tavarangue. These religious sites located near Trinidad village are the most preserved in the country and are collectively recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The ruins were supposedly great design masterpieces by the Italian Juan Bautista Primoli, but they were not completed due to the expulsion of the Jesuit group from the country in the 18th century.
Despite being a significant heritage sites, the Jesuit Missions’ colonial remains receive relatively few visitors. But that’s what makes the ruins more charming. Here, you will not get lost in a crowd of tourists. You can easily walk around the red-brick hilltop and the lovely and peaceful countryside.
While experiencing the ruins and climbing the bell tower, you can actually get the feel of what colonial Paraguay was like during the 17th and 18th century, when Guarani Indians and missionaries lived together in peace. When the sun comes down, don’t be in a hurry to leave as there is a music and light show held at the town of Trinidad from Thursday to Sunday evenings.
Going to the Jesuit Missions is quite easy because it is considered to be one of the most prominent tourist attractions in the entire country. To follow the route to the missions called “El Ruta Jesuita, take any bus going to the north and get off at Trinidad. From here, locals can guide you to the Trinidad ruins but the walk will only take approximately 5 minutes. To gain access to the sites, you would need to pay an entrance fee, which is usually valid for three days.
The ruins of Jesus de Tavarangue are about 10 km away from the road where the bus drops you off. You can choose to walk to the ruins if you don’t mind sweating it out. However, there are also the options of renting a bicycle at the Ruinas hotel, beside the Trinidad ruins, or riding a moto-taxi.
Encarnacion can get warm at certain times of the year. Since you will be doing a lot of walking because the city is quite compact, make sure to bring your usual sun protection accessories. If you’re going to the Jesuit Mission ruins, don’t forget to bring plenty of water and some snacks.