The Paraguayan Chaco is a region covering the western half of Paraguay. It is the Paraguayan portion of the Chaco, a South American region that includes parts of Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Brazil. It attracts travelers who are drawn by the region’s wilderness scenery that offers the possibility of seeing many wild animals, untamed nature, indigenous culture, and several prosperous Mennonite colonies. It stretches from the river Paraguay across from Asunción to the northwestern border with Bolivia, including the departments of:
- Alto Paraguay
- Boquerón, the westernmost of the three departments of the Chaco is in some sense a unique region in Paraguay that merges clearly identifiable elements of indigenous culture, the culture of cattle ranching, ands the culture of German Mennonite immigrants who have developed an extraordinary high standard of living in their colonies established during the first half of the 20th century
- Presidente Hayes
The Transchaco Highway traverses the entire length of the Chaco passing through its two ecoregions – the humid Chaco, to the south, and the dry Chaco, to the north.
- 3 Filadelfia - The capital of Boquerón and the largest of the Mennonite colonies.
- 4 Loma Plata - The other major Mennonite colony, it's an industrial town.
- 5 Neuland - The smallest Mennonite colony and a very charming town.
- 6 Mariscal Estigarribia - A military base town with an indigenous community that is home to one of the most beautiful indigenous celebrations in the country, the Areté Guazú held between February/March.
The humid Chaco (also known as the bajo Chaco) encompasses the southern half of Presidente Hayes department. This region is characterized by flooded savannas filled with palm trees. Further north, is the transition zone between the humid and dry Chaco, commonly known as the central Chaco. It is sparsely populated, hot, semi-arid, and featuring a desert-like environment presenting a stark contrast to the eastern half of Paraguay which is humid, largely populated, and full of rivers and streams.
The name Chaco comes from a word in Quechua, an indigenous language from the Andes and highlands of South America. The quechua word chaqu meaning "hunting land" comes probably from the rich variety of animal life present throughout the entire region.
Bus companies Stel Turismo and NASA/Golondrina offer scheduled services from Asunción to the Mennonite cities of Filadelfia, Loma Plata, and Neuland, as well as to Marsical Estigarribia. Buses depart Asunción daily at 21:00 and travel all night to reach their destinations at dawn.
The Transchaco highway is the vital communication artery. It runs from Asunción all the way to the Bolivian border.
In Boquerón, public transportation is limited to a few buses travelling between the Mennonite colonies. To get to other places you will have to arrange private transportation and the use of an accredited guide is strongly recommended.