If taking a guided tour to the Pantanal, be sure to inquire whether visas to Brazil are necessary. Some companies prefer to access the Pantanal through Brazil by crossing over the border in Pedro Juan and traveling to Porto Murtinho, making use of the country’s superior highway system. Others may simply include stops in the Brazilian Pantanal on their itinerary. Some tourists find it is worthwhile to pay the premium for more comfortable travel conditions as well as guides experienced in both the region’s wildlife and possible travel hazards. Be sure to specify a need for English speaking guides if necessary.
Fuerte Olimpo offers visitors an interesting cross of Pantanal experiences from the historic to the natural. Fuerte Borbon, a semi-abandoned fort dates back to the colonial era when the Spanish and Portuguese were busy carving up the region. The small indigenous museum is a testament to the region’s original inhabitants, still surviving to this day in the nearby community of Virgen Santisima. Fuerte Olimpo is the last large town along the river, after which the region’s communities become fewer and further between. For this reason, Fuerte Olimpo is known as the puerta de entrada, or gateway, to the Pantanal. Nestled between the Cerros Tres Hermanos (Three Brothers Mountains), Fuerte Olimpo’s hilly territory makes for amazing views of the surrounding Pantanal. The town’s church plaza and bell tower offer great views in exchange for minimal exertion. More of a hike but worth the payoff, is the 500 plus stair walkway leading to a lookout point at the top of the middle of the three mountains. There is also the possibility of venturing out in private boat or vehicles to get a closer look at the region’s wildlife along the river and in inland lagoons.
Fuerte Olimpo is a good choice for travelers who want a taste of the Pantanal without going all the way to Bahia Negra. As the official capital of the Alto Paraguay province, it is a bit more accessible and populated. It is still, however, remote, and facilities for tourists are limited.
Tourism Information Office Inquire here about guided trips along the river for both sightseeing and fishing as well as visits to the Virgen Santisima Ishir community. If it the office is closed, look for tourism secretary, Alcides Gallagher, in the Municipal office across the street or Hotel AA (he is the owner). Tel: 0497 281 155, located in a small building in the Plaza Municipal, Mon-Fri 7am-3pm
Puerto Pinasco: Birthplace of Paraguay’s Friendship Day
July 30th is celebrated as the Dia de la Amistad, or Friendship Day, in Paraguay. This celebration was created in 1958 in Puerto Pinasco by Dr. Ramon Artemio Bracho. Along with a small group of friends, Dr. Bracho founded the Cruzada Mundial de la Amistad (World Friendship Crusade). Their call for a celebration of friendship with an official Dia de la Amistad quickly gained traction and is now celebrated (on different dates) throughout Latin America.
On the Dia de la Amistad people gather with friends to share a meal or drinks and exchange small gifts. Co-workers might go out to lunch together to celebrate. Gift giving is informal, although some groups like to organize white elephant exchanges called “amigo invisible” (invisible friend). Gifts need not be large or fancy, in fact they are almost always a little cheesy. Should you be in Paraguay during the Dia del Amigo, take the opportunity to thank anyone who has been friendly or helpful to you by wishing them a “feliz dia del amigo” via phone call or text message, or give them a small present. It will be greatly appreciated.
Gobernacion Tourism Office Another tourism information office, this one is located within the Gobernacion building. They can also help plan outings around Fuerte Olimpo and to the Virgen Santisima community. See or call Juan Batista de Leon. Tel: 0497 281 005, the large two story brick Gobernacion building is located three and a half blocks upriver from the docks on the right-hand side of the pretty Calle Fuerte Borbon double avenue, Mon-Fri 7am-3pm