While for many visitors roughing it in Paraguay may be seen as an unnecessary evil in a land where cheap accommodation seems as if it’s on tap, where there are plenty of low-cost budget stop overs and a fantastically welcoming local population often eager to share their abodes with travellers who really are that low on cash, there has nonetheless been a recent surge in the popularity of camping in the country and, indeed, across the continent as a whole.
People who have been travelling South America for decades and enjoyed the fruits of a truly un-trodden path, from the Incan trails of Machu Picchu to the glacial climbs of Patagonian Chile, are often quick to extoll the virtues of ‘off the beaten track travel’ here; championing it as one of the final few vestiges of real exploration in the Americas.
Whether this somewhat patronising assumption is true or not perhaps doesn’t matter, but what’s certain is that camping right across the region is fast becoming a favourite of both the backpacker and the flashpacker, with options right up and down Paraguay ranging from simple hotel parking lots with toilet facilities to fully-fledged camp sites complete with hot showers, swimming pools and computer rooms.
However, broadening its appeal it may be, the Paraguayan camping scene remains (like a number of touristic ventures in this land-locked country nestled so neatly and, many feel, somewhat isolated from the onslaught of the touristic machine at the very heart of this coveted continent) a little rough at the edges.
Still very much the acceptable past time of intrepid adventure seekers or shameless adrenaline junkies looking for open road and endless spontaneity, camping in Paraguay has been said to bring out the real beauty of this country, the beauty that may otherwise remain hidden under a veneer of pleasant centralised flat lands, green fields, soft hills and day trip excursions to compulsory UNESCO sites for gap year travellers making yet another ‘rite of passage’ on the marked outs routes that run their way through Peru, Argentina and Bolivia.
One of the most popular camping choices for people opting to really rough it in Paraguay is a north to south trip made by 4×4. Today there are a number of car rental companies that offer long-term deals in central South America, with some packages aimed specifically at those looking to undertake a prolonged camping excursion through Paraguay and its neighbouring countries.
In terms of camping accommodation options, trips like these can easily be done totally ‘off the cuff’, a decision which often involves abandoning any concern for comfort or cleanliness (especially cleanliness!) in favour of spontaneity and directionless travel. For travellers like this it can often be difficult to find dedicated camp sites in Paraguay every step of the way, but there are still plenty of alternatives to be had on the road.
In South America, wild camping has generally become an accepted feature of travel. Right across the continent the vast swathes of wilderness and agricultural areas that form the bulk of land outside the cities has made it easy for people to pitch up and sleep with very little difficulty, and most veterans of the Paraguayan camping circuit have reported the same. That said, as in Europe, North America, Australia and the UK, camping without permission remains a notorious grey area, and it’s always sensible to request permission from land owners – particularly if you are intending to stay more than one night.
Hotel car parks, roadside inlets, petrol stations and farmer’s fields have all been popular options for wild campers in Paraguay, and it’s relatively easy to get permission for these here, provided you ask nicely and respect the grounds accordingly. In fact,Paraguayans are proud of their hospitable nature, and many travellers have reported being fed and watered after seeking permission for an overnight stay.
In Paraguay’s metropolitan areas, it’s generally accepted (even amongst the most hard core of eco-tourists) that you’re always better off seeking sheltered accommodation. Not only is this cheap, but it’s far more readily available than the city style campsites that have become popular across Europe and America. That said, in Asuncion it is possible to camp within city limits. Just look for the municipal camping ground that’s located in the botanical gardens. While the facilities are shoestring to say the least – with cold showers and dirty toilets – pluses include all night guards and a dedicated marked off pitching ground.