Paraguayan Geography

Part One: Overview of Paraguay


Located at the heart of South America, the small, mostly flat, nation of Paraguay is a land of two diverse halves. The two faces of this country, divided by the Paraguayan River, include its eastern region, the Región Oriental or Paraneña Region, and its western region, the Región Occidental, or Chaco Boreal. Each half’s distinct features and characteristics that present two unique pictures of Paraguay.



With an area of 61,700 square miles, the Región Oriental contains a number of ranges of hilss, though it is flat in general. These include the Cordillera de Amambay, Cordillera de Mbaracayú, and the Cordillera de San Rafael, running down Paraguay’s eastern border from north to south. Taking up a third of this region is the Paraná Plateau, also at the Paraguay-Brazil border.
Although the other 2/3 of Paraguay, its Chaco Boreal, shares the same general flatness of the Región Oriental, it is a contrast to the eastern half. With monotonous land that covers 95,000 square miles, this half of Paraguay contains few significant features.

Besides the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country, all of Paraguay’s major rivers run along the country’s borders. These include the Apa and the Paraná, which define the Paraguay-Brazil border, and the Pilcomayo, defining the Argentina-Paraguay border. Paraguay’s two major lakes are the Lake Ypoá and the lake Ypacaraí.

The Tropic of Capricorn cuts through Paraguay, accounting for its two varying climates. The Región Oriental, lying to the South of the Tropic of Capricorn has a subtropical climate that receives an average of 65 inches of rain a year.
The Chaco Boreal, lying above the Tropic of Capricorn, receives about half the rainfall, with an average of 30 inches a year. Its drier and parched climate accounts for its constant droughts.
Paraguay as a whole has humid summers ranging from 77-104 ºF (25-40 ºC) and cold, windy winters ranging from 61-73 ºF (16-23 ºC).

Differing climates accounts for the two different vegetation patterns of Paraguay. The Región Oriental, which receives more rain than the west, contains dense patches of evergreen forests along with patches of tropical vegetation here and there.
The dry Chaco Boreal contains sparse vegetation that is mostly limited to scrubs and grasses. Some major plants of Paraguay are its yerba plant, lapacho, palo santo, and many others.

Animal Life
Paraguay’s wildlife consists mainly of animals found in tropical regions, including monkeys, armadillos, tapirs, and jaguars. The birds in Paraguay include parrots, toucans, doves, and eagles. The most common insects include mosquitoes and locusts while a noteworthy fish is the piranha.

Economic Activity

One of the primary economic activities of Paraguay is agriculture. Farming in Paraguay produces products such as sugarcane, corn, bananas, cotton, soy, and wheat. Also, cattle, horses, sheep, and pig are the primary livestock raised.
Mining, though extremely minimal, is done mostly in the Región Oriental to gather limited amounts of malachite, azurite, iron, manganese, and others. Paraguay’s most important resource is its hydroelectricity, especially the Paraná river’s Itaipú dam, which produces 12,600 megawatts of energy. Other dams include the Yacyretá dam producing 2,700 megawatts.

Part Two: Local Geography- The 17 Departments

Paraguay is divided into 17 different provinces called departments. These departments are ranked in a departmental order. The departments offer various levels of education and health care along with electricity and running water services. As for agricultural production, all of the Región Oriental departments produce soy and cotton, though at greatly differing amounts. Each department also raises livestock, with cattle being the most common. A major problem of all the departments is deforestation, leaving them with diminishing forest levels.

Departments of the Región Oriental

1. Concepción

Land size (km2): 18,051
Population: 191,911
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 40, 24, -3
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,200-1,500
Agricultural Products: soy, wheat, potato, sugarcane, cotton
Livestock Raised: sheep, cattle
Percent of Forested Land: 29

Ranking number one of Paraguay’s political departments, Concepción does fairly on the socio-economic level, holding significant ranks in livestock and agricultural production. A 29% of the department is covered in forest, making it the exclusive home of certain animal species in Paraguay.

2. San Pedro

Land size (km2): 20,002
Population: 361,787
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 35, 23, 10
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,300-1,600
Agricultural Products: tobacco, wheat, cotton, soy
Livestock Raised: cattle, horses
Percent of Forested Land: 23

With the largest land area of the Región Oriental, this department often presents a paradox. Although this department falls behind in electrical and running water developments, it prospers economically, especially due to its second ranking in cattle raising and its leading tobacco and other agricultural productions. This department also lacks sufficient medical care due to its emphasis.

3. Cordillera

Land size (km2): 4,948
Population: 215,517
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 39, 22, 3
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,400-1,500
Agricultural Products: cotton, pineapple, lemon, yerba mate, corn, soy, tangerine
Livestock Raised: cattle, horses, sheep
Percent of Forested Land: 27

Like most industrialized regions, Cordillera excels in its basic services like water and electricity, but has little agricultural and livestock production. This department has one of the slowest population growth rates, but has one of the best education systems and one of the highest literacy rates of the nation.

4. Guairá

Land size (km2): 3,846
Population: 175,122
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 38, 22, 1
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,600
Agricultural Products: cotton, sugarcane, yerba mate, soy, wheat
Livestock Raised: cattle, pigs, horses, sheep
Percent of Forested Land: 14

According to the socio-economic and infrastructure scale, Guairá seems to be right in the center. Its electricity and water services and education all rank in middle positions, though it falls behind in agricultural products. This department is covered with the Selva Central jungle, the most extensive in the Región Oriental.

5. Caaguazú

Land size (km2): 11,474
Population: 461,934
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 32, 22, 0
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,600
Agricultural Products: wheat, soy, cotton, sugarcane
Livestock Raised: cattle, pigs, horses
Percent of Forested Land: 20.4

Considered one of the richest departments of Paraguay, Caaguazú excels in agricultural production items such as cotton and sugar and in livestock raising of pigs. However, this fourth most populous department lacks development in basic services for its people, including medical, electrical, and running water services.

6. Caazapá

Land size (km2): 9,496
Population: 143,887
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 21, 4
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,650
Agricultural Products: wheat, soy, yerba mate, cotton, tobacco
Livestock Raised: horses, sheep
Percent of Forested Land: 22.2

Along with its mediocre education and health care, the department Caazapá has one of the nation’s poorest electrical and running water services, ranking just above departments from the Región Occidental. However, its agricultural products such as cotton and tobacco along with the raising of horses and sheep rank Caazapá among the top four leading producers.

7. Itapúa

Land size (km2): 16,525
Population: 460,969
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 38, 21, 4
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,700
Agricultural Products: sugarcane, cotton, corn, yerba mate, soy, wheat
Livestock Raised: horses, cattle, pigs
Percent of Forested Land: 16

One of the wealthiest departments of Paraguay, Itapúa is an agricultural leader in producing cotton, corn, and yerba mate. It also has the coldest climate of the nation due to its location south. It fails to offer its people good basic services, though medical attention is outstanding.

8. Misiones

Land size (km2): 9,556
Population: 100,387
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 21.5
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,400-1,600
Agricultural Products: cotton, sugarcane, wheat, soy
Livestock Raised: sheep, cattle
Percent of Forested Land: 1.8

Multiple paradoxes make up this department including its low literacy rate despite its fifth place ranking in education. Misiones also has a low supply of medics and medical facilities, but maintains the highest vaccination rate. This department does not stand out agriculturally or in livestock raising except its fourth place rank in sheep raising.

9. Paraguarí

Land size (km2): 8,705
Population: 241,675
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 22
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,400-1,600
Agricultural Products: cotton, soy, sugarcane
Livestock Raised: pigs, sheep, horses
Percent of Forested Land: 4

One of the smallest, yet more populous departments, Paraguarí stands out in many aspects. With one of the best education systems and medical care nationwide, it makes up for its mediocre electrical and water services with a fifth ranking in horse raising and third in sugar production. Many lakes and hills make up this small department.

10. Alto Paraná

Land size (km2): 14,895
Population: 705,135
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 21.5
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,650-1,700
Agricultural Products: soy, wheat, corn, cotton
Livestock Raised: horses, sheep, cattle, goats
Percent of Forested Land: 26.2

Probably containing the most natural resources and benefits, Alto Paraná makes full use of them to prosper economically. This second most populous department offers one of the best electrical services due to its hydroelectric power from the Itaipú dam, along with outstanding health care and education.

11. Central

Land size (km2): 2,465
Population: 1,333,888
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 22.5
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,400
Agricultural Products: corn, tobacco, strawberry, lemon, cotton, yerba mate
Livestock Raised: cattle, horses, sheep
Percent of Forested Land: 10

Containing the capital of the nation, it is no surprise that Central offers the highest quality medical, educational, and basic services. Though it is the smallest department, it is the most populous and economically significant to the nation. Its industrialization has left little room for agricultural developments and opened up heavy deforestation and environmental damage.

12. Neembucú

Land size (km2): 12,146
Population: 88,285
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 39, 22
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,300-1,400
Agricultural Products: cotton, tobacco, corn
Livestock Raised: cattle, sheep, horses
Percent of Forested Land: 0.6

Even with the lowest population in the Región Oriental, Neembucú has impressive socio-economic developments. Thanks to the two major rivers, the Paraguay and the Paraná that run along its borders, Neembucú has the second best running water service of the nation. It is also a leader in sheep and horse raising.

13. Amambay

Land size (km2): 12,933
Population: 136,910
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 22
Annual Rainfall (mm): 450-1,700
Agricultural Products: yerba mate, soy, wheat, corn, cotton
Livestock Raised: cattle
Percent of Forested Land: 34

Even with one of the lowest education and health systems, Amambay boasts one of the best electricity and running water services. Located on a Paraguay-Brazil border, this department contains one of the highest elevations of the nation with its Cordillera de Amambay, earning its name, “Nation’s Terrace.”

14. Canindeyú

Land size (km2): 14,677
Population: 145,840
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 39, 21, 0
Annual Rainfall (mm): 1,600-1,700
Agricultural Products: coffee, tobacco, soy, cotton
Livestock Raised: cattle, pigs, sheep, goats, horses
Percent of Forested Land: 47

The department of Canindeyú, running along the Paraguay-Brazil border, presents a unique picture in its mass production of coffee and tobacco, both of which it is a leader in. It also occupies one of the lowest rankings in electric and water services, even lower than some departments of the Región Occidental. Strangely, though, it has the highest vaccination rates of the nation.

15. Presidente Hayes

Land size (km2): 72,907
Population: 77,145
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 42, 23, 4
Annual Rainfall (mm): 900-1,200
Agricultural Products: cotton, sugarcane, sorghum
Livestock Raised: pigs, sheep, cattle, horses, goats
Percent of Forested Land: 0.03

Located directly west of the Paraguay River, the department of Presidente Hayes is the “Gateway to the Chaco.” Although, like the other Región Occidental departments, it falls behind the eastern departments in health and education, it is better off than its fellow western departments, due to its proximity to the capital.

16. Boquerón

Land size (km2): 91,669
Population: 38,449
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 40, 25
Annual Rainfall (mm): 400-800
Agricultural Products: sorghum
Livestock Raised: cattle
Percent of Forested Land: n/a

Much like its fellow departments of the Región Occidental, the Boquerón department ranks as one of the least developed and populated departments. Though it falls behind in education and medical care, Boquerón does contribute a significant amount of dairy and meat products to the Paraguayan economy. This department boasts the largest area of Paraguay’s departments.

17. Alto Paraguay

Land size (km2): 82,349
Population: 14,673
Climate: Max., Avg., Min. Temperature (ºC): 40, 25
Annual Rainfall (mm): 500-1,200
Agricultural Products: corn
Livestock Raised: cattle
Percent of Forested Land: n/a

Ranking last on Paraguay’s scale of socio-economic development, Alto Paraguay lags behind the other departments in, medical care, education, infrastructure, and agricultural production. Located in the northernmost Chaco Region of Paraguay, this under-populated department is, however, one of the largest in departments in Paraguay and contains the nation’s largest wildlife reserve.

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