Encarnacion, known as the “Pearl of the South,” is a city in southeastern Paraguay on the Parana River. It is roughly 235miles south of the Paraguayan capital of Asuncion and sits on the opposite bank of the Argentinean city of Posadas. The San Roque Gonzalez de Santa Cruz Bridge connects the two cities. Encarnacion is the capital of the Itapua region of Paraguay and second only to Asuncion in its diverse and lively nightlife and array of attractions.
Encarnacion was founded in 1615 by Jesuit missionaries from Europe and these days you can still see their influence on the city, from old churches and historical birthplaces to the thriving Catholic tradition that still serves as the dominant religion in the country. Encarnacion really exploded, however, in 1854 when a railway was run through the city. This increase in traffic created a boom in the city that continues to this day.
Encarnacion earned its nickname “Pearl of the South” because of its mild climate, its trade status, and its thriving culture of food, music and dance. Encarnacion is considered by most to be only second to the capital city of Asuncion in its modern, cosmopolitan lifestyle and international appeal. In fact, many wealthier Paraguayans come to Encarnacion and surrounding areas on their vacations! Because Paraguay is in the southern hemisphere, the farther south you go, the cooler the climate becomes. In Paraguay, you can’t get any farther south than Encarnacion! So when the summer gets unbearable in the more northerly parts of Paraguay anyone who can afford the trip goes to Encarnacion to enjoy the beautiful, mild weather and attractions!
These days, Encarnacion is divided into two parts: the newer, business district is inland from the river and the “old city” is down by the river, where river traffic and trade began hundreds of years ago for the city. No matter where you go in Encarnacion, you never know what you are likely to find; the city is home to people of various descent, including Germans, Japanese, Ukrainians, Arabs, New Zealanders, Koreans, Poles and Chinese. The vast majority of the populace, of course, is of Spanish and Amerindian descent. All are friendly and recognize the importance of tourism to their economy.
As birthplace of former dictator Alfredo Straussner (who ruled from 1954 to 1989!), Encarnacion has long been considered an important part of Paraguay as a trade center and tourist attraction. This city of a mere 69,000 swells to incredible numbers during the summer months and during the Carnival, which happens every year in January and February. This annual celebration of Brazilian music and dance features parades and other sights that must simply be seen to be believed. If you are going to be visiting during either of these periods, make sure that you book your hotel room early, as they fill up quick! Encarcacion has something to offer for the ecotourist and the traditional tourist, so make sure to include it on your tour of Paraguay this year!