A large part of the Itapúa region, 250 km (155 miles) from Ciudad del Este, was settled by immigrants of various origins and is therefore Paraguay's most cosmopolitan department. A lively carnival festival and historical tourism are highlights in the capital of the department, Encarnación.
This is where three of Paraguay's seven Jesuit reductions are: Santisima Trinidad del Paraná, Jesús de Tavarangue and San Cosme y San Damian. The Jesuits built small towns where they taught indigenous people to read and the doctrines of Christianity, and where the indigenous people worked in agriculture.
The Jesuits were present in Paraguay from 1609 to 1767. When you visit the ruins, you'll see how the approximately 3,000 indigenous people lived in each mission. You can see how these communities were built with churches, a school, workshops, warehouses and a corral. The Spanish government resisted the reductions because it wanted the indigenous people to be enslaved. The Jesuits were expelled from the Americas by King Carlos III of Spain in 1767, after various bloody battles.
The ruins have become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The ruins of the Santisima Trinidad de Paraná Mission are the best preserved of the three in this region. The San Cosme y San Damian Reduction is home to the former Jesuit astronomical observatory. The ruins are 14 km (8.5 miles) apart and you can make the trip between them easily by car. One entry ticket works for all three reductions.