The town of Filadelfia, on the edge of the great Paraguayan Chaco, is quite possibly the strangest human settlement I have ever been. Plopped in the middle of basically nowhere and settled within one of the most underdeveloped regions in the Americas, Filadelfia is planned, developed and strangely organized. German speaking Mennonites settled this region decades ago and have turned it into the farming center that it now is, but the indigenous have lived in this region for hundreds of years before hand. Today it is that mix of indigenous Paraguayan population, the organization of the Mennonites and the obscurity of the town’s location that make it so strange. Mud roads are lined by perfectly in tact side walks and air conditioned supermarkets.
Unless you’re curious about the history, or the blending of cultures in Filadelfia there is little reason to visit town for too long. The big draw is the vast expansive Chaco region. The Chaco is a large habitat to the elusive jaguars as well as home to a number of other mammals and a wealth of bird life. Most who explore the Chaco use Filadelfia as their base.
Time Needed: 2-5 days
Budget: 30$ a day or 100$ a day if doing a Chaco excursion.
Things to do in Filadelfia
Within town itself there isn’t much to do beyond wandering around in confusion as to how such an organized place came to be in such a random location. I thoroughly enjoyed wandering around since many of the properties have beautiful gardens and the number of butterflies and hummingbirds around made it a fun place to photograph. Below I have listed some other things available:
- The Chaco: You can book day trips onto the Chaco directly from Filadelfia but it is best to book in advance. The most famous guide in the region is a man by the name of Hans Fast who you can email at fast (at) telesurf(dot)com(dot)py.
- Unger Museum: This is basically the town museum. It is pact with history about the community as well as information about the Chaco and region.
Where to Eat in Filadelfia
Eating in Filadelfia won’t be as much of a cultural experience, but with the presence of so many people of German background you can find some treats you wont find in many other places in South America.
- Hotel Florida: These guys make some of the best pizza I have eaten in South America. They are huge and they are cheap. They also serve a buffet dinner and a menu full of international fare.
- Girasol: Other than the hotel Girasol is really the only other major restaurant in town. It mostly serves as a churrascuria, which means it serves Brazilian style meats, but you can also pick meals from a menu.
Where to Stay in Filadelfia
While in Filadelfia I stayed at the Hotel Florida and I can’t imagine why anyone would want to stay anywhere else. The hotel is clean, and there is a room for every budget. There is a pool and you can expect to see a number of colourful hummingbirds buzzing around the property. I stayed in what they called the dorms, which was actually a private room without a bathroom. I paid 7US$ a night. There are also nicer private rooms with bathrooms for about 20$ for a single room.
Communicating in Filadelfia isn’t as hard as one might think. There are a number of internet and call centers in town and the internet is surprisingly fast for such an obscure location. At the Mennonite run hotels there is generally wifi available as well.
Getting out of Town
There is no bus terminal in town. The buses either leave from their respective office or they are met on the main street of town. If you ask your hotel they will point you in the right direction. If you’re planning on doing the long trip to Bolivia be sure to ask about making a reservation as that bus can sometimes be quite full. Below I have listed some of the destinations you can get to from Filadelfia:
- Asuncion (6-8 hours): bus leaves a number of times a day and costs about 15US$
- Concepcion (8-9 hours): there is usually only one bus a day, and you’ll have to jump off and catch a connecting bus at some point. The cost is about 15US$.
- Loma Plata (30 minutes): to get to the other Mennonite settlement it is quite easy as all Asuncion and Concepcion bound buses stop there. However, there are only a couple buses a day so you might be better off just taking a taxi or trying your hand at hitchhiking
- Santa Cruz, Bolivia (30 hours): There is generally at least one or two buses a day passing through from Asuncion to Santa Cruz. The bus is quite comfortable but the road can be awful and make for a bumpy journey. The price at time of research was around 40US$.
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