Part of what makes visits to Latin America so amazing is the amount of festivals and celebrations held each year. Paraguay is certainly no exception to this, and visitors can experience cultural events and festivities throughout the year. Because the country has maintained its strong indigenous connections and roots, many of Paraguay’s festivals are derived from practices of the Guirani people. However, Paraguay’s history as a colony of Spain has also contributed to its present-day heritage practice, as has the country’s strong religious roots. The festivities of Paraguay are therefore a unique mix cultural celebrations like no other.
Here are some Paraguay festivals you shouldn’t miss if you have the chance:
This gets mentioned first because it is by far the largest festival held in Paraguay each year. Carnival celebrations span over multiple days before Lent begins (about 90 percent of Paraguayans identify as Christian), and they are similar to the Mardi Gras festivities seen in the United States and other countries. Paraguayans hold parades and pageants filled with music and dancing well into the night. Different cities take part in Carnival, but it is by far the biggest in Encarnación. Tourists from all over to world come to participate in Paraguay’s dazzling Carnival.
Día de San Blas
Held in February, this day of celebration is in honor of Saint Blaise, the patron saint of Paraguay. Ciudad del Este hosts the most elaborate festivities for this important day, though it is celebrated throughout the country. Be prepared for plenty of food, music and fun.
Verbena de San Juan
Another celebration of Christian origins, Verbana de San Juan is put on in honor of Saint John. Nevertheless, it includes an interesting mix of celebratory customs from different ethnic groups in Paraguay. For example, it is not uncommon to see people walking across hot coals in front of spectators! Verbana de San Juan is traditionally held on May 28 and May 29, and many consider it a must-see for visitors to this country.
That’s right; it’s not just in Germany anymore. Held at the same time as its European counterpart in early September, Paraguay’s Oktober Fest is a representation of how various immigrant communities have helped to shape the country over time. If you want to participate, head to Asunción, where the main festivities take place. And yes, they are modeled after those in Germany.
Independence Day (Día de la Independencia)
Just as the United States celebrates its independence from England on July 4, Paraguay celebrates its independence from Spain on May 15. In fact, Paraguay was the first official country in the New World after the U.S. Independence day is typically celebrated with barbecues, soccer games, music, as well as plenty of beer, wine and the traditional Paraguayan drink “mate”. In many towns and cities, parades are also held.
If you’re into the arts, this is the festival for you. The name “Nanduti” comes from a type of traditional Paraguayan lace that is made around the city of Itagua, where the main celebrations are also held. The Nanduit Festival features demonstrations and displays of the region’s arts, crafts, music, performances and food, and it is held during the last weekend of July.
Trans Chaco Rally
You’ll also see this as the “Transchaco” rally or sometimes just the “Chaco” rally, but it all means the same thing. This celebration is a must for everyone who loves cars and automobile sports. Brought to the country in the early 1970s by a North American employee of a Paraguayan sanitation company, the Trans Chaco Rally is essentially a large car competition of resistance driving. It has grown since its founding to a rally with international appeal, as thousands of people from Paraguay and the rest of the world travel to the Gran Chaco region to see it.
Ypacaraí (Festival del Lago) Festival
If you’re interested in really experiencing and learning about Paraguay’s folk culture, the Festival del Lago is the place to do it. There is essentially a party that takes place around the Ypacarai lake, which is a beautiful place worth visiting by itself at other times of the year.
New Year’s (Año Nuevo)
Like the rest of the world, Paraguay also rings in the New Year on December 31st and January 1st with various celebrations. In Paraguary, streets are decorated with flowers and lights, and performances and parties are prevalent. If you are visiting the country at this time, the best New Year’s celebrations can be found in Asunción.
If you’replanning to attend any major festivals, be sure to book a hotel or hostel room well in advance. Especially for Carnival, places to stay tend to book up very quickly. While there, be aware of anyone who may be preying on tourists. But above all, have fun!