Cordillera, Paraguay is a district situated in the south central portion of Paraguay and is home to about 35,000 inhabitants. Small but renowned for its rich outdoors attraction and Basilica Caacupé, this region is a must-see for the Paraguay tourist. The district is the perfect one-day stop between Chaco and Asuncion to get a taste of the spiritual side of Paraguay.

Early in the 1600s, Paraguay was heavily influenced by Roman Catholic and German settlers who came in search of riches and new followers. Jesuits (a sect of Catholic tradition) built large colonial-style chapels and settlements. The people of Paraguay converted mostly to Catholicism and built their new modern cities around this style. Native populations were forced into the surrounding wildlife, which they still inhabit in much smaller numbers.

Cordillera quickly became the Catholic and Christian spiritual center of Paraguay and remains so today. Pilgrims flock to the large Basilica in the center of the district, Caacupé. In this capital city is the Basilica Caacupé, where 1.5 million visitors come during the first week in December to celebrate the “Our Lady of the Miracles” devotion parade. If you stop by during this time, you’ll see a massive devotion parade through the central streets of Caacupé, along with a float supporting a sacred statue from the 1600s and the devout leaders of the community.

The Basilica Caacupé itself is a colonial style chapel with soaring vaulted ceilings and a traditional Spanish-style altar. It’s truly the center of Cordillera, with its impressive steps, large windows and painted ceiling.

If you’re looking for a more secluded outdoors adventure, check out the Cordillera de los Altos. This is the very flat highland area of Cordillera that also hosts Jesuit missions and the oldest city in Paraguay, “San Lorenzo de la Cordillera de los Altos.” In this city, you can find a rich market filled with native art and carvings. The most popular attraction here is the carved timbo wood statues of animals and historical archetypes. In the city center, you can also find the Church of Altos, a beautiful ancient attraction with columns and a traditional Spanish-style chapel.

Once in the city of San Lorenzo de la Cordillera de los Altos, you can also take a tour of “The Tukanga Route” with a local guide. This route is a famous attraction for its array of toucans and avian species. There’s also the Ypacaraí Lake, known for rare flora and fauna which surrounds the natural trail along the highlands.

When you are finished with your hike, a stop at the famous “Bar of Tereré” offers local traditional drinks and food such as Tereré. There’s still a small but budding native population, and within the city center you can catch plays and reenactments of the battle between new settlers and guaicurúes (natives).

Cordillera is the perfect stop for a tourist looking to experience the spirit of Paraguay and its tumultuous but rich history. The attractions at this district will leave a memorable positive mark on your trip. Few locations in Paraguay offer the attractions that Cordillera provides to new and experienced tourist alike.