Paraguay because it's off the beaten track and nobody knows anything about it here, except me
It's got over 300 species of bird life, the jesuit ruins, gran chaco, very closeby to the famous Iguazu falls, and the leafy green, and riverside capital of Asuncion, which has many ancient colonial buildings around the city, and there are many national parks and outdoor activities to keep you entertained.
To visit Paraguay is still to do something different as it is only in recent years that its borders have been opened to foreigners. Even experienced travellers to Latin America tend to leave out Paraguay. There aren't any package tourists nor cruising hordes here but foreigners are now made very welcome. Paraguay was once one of the largest countries in Latin America but a century of military disasters have now left it one of the smallest, least known and now one of the poorest in SA. But it's by no means the least interesting.
Landlocked right in the centre of Latin America, it is a strikingly beautiful country dominated by a fertile green landscape covered by red roads and rooftops. Paraguayans, who are almost all ‘Mestizo ’. (mixture of Spanish and Indian) are unfailingly charming and are never heard to raise their voices when things go wrong – and they go wrong most of the time!
Almost everyone speaks both Spanish and Guaraní and it is the only country in Latin America where the indigenous language holds equal status with Spanish. However, one of the delights of Paraguay is that English is hardly spoken. For volunteers who want to improve their spoken Spanish, therefore, Paraguay is ideal. There are a few placements where Spanish is not essential but a willingness to "have a go" at the language is vital if a volunteer really wants to become part of this charming society.
They are big meat-eaters and are usually astonished that anyone would want to be a vegetarian. The amount of beef they eat in this country is so immense that they’ve neglected trying to find a word for it (beef in Paraguay is just called ‘meat’). Lunch and dinner is beef stew, beef and pasta, beef and rice or tinned beef.
It is quite easy and cheap to follow a vegetarian diet there. Grain, especially maize, is used in most dishes and fresh fruit is plentiful. Cana, made from sugar cane, is the main alcoholic drink but all Paraguayans drink mate, a herb tea. Taken hot or cold from a guampa through a bombilla, everyone should try it once.
The great majority of Paraguayans are Roman Catholic and are very religious. However, it is a secular state - unfortunately, therefore, they don’t celebrate the numerous Feast Days that are normally associated with Catholic countries. Don’t worry, Paraguayans love to party and dance (
) but it is important that volunteers respect codes of behaviour, both traditional and religious, that may be rather stricter than those in Britain.
There are more jaguars in Paraguay than tourists
Everyone who visits Paraguay loves it, and it's also pretty cheap. Paraguay is very unknown and hidden, but beautiful!