Paraguay: Natural Landscape

Paraguay: Natural Landscape

Sat, 08/27/2022 - 15:30
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Paraguay is a land-locked country located in the south-central region of South America. The Paraguay River divides the country into two distinct eastern and western geographic regions: Paraneña, where 95% of the population resides, and Chaco Boreal.

The Natural Landscape of Paraguay

Paraguay is located in the south-central region of South America. Covering an area of 406,752 sq km (157,050 sq mi), Bolivia borders the country to the north and northwest, Argentina to the south and southwest, and Brazil to the east and northeast.

Paraguay is a landlocked country that consists almost entirely of plains and swampland. However, the country has ports on the Paraguay River and the Paraná River that allow access to the Atlantic Ocean.


The country ranks 53rd in the world on the Global Biodiversity Index, with an estimated 690 bird species, 80 amphibian species, 266 fish species, 181 mammal species, 189 reptile species, and 7,851 vascular plant species.


The climate is subtropical in most of the Eastern Region of the country and tropical in most of the western Chaco Boreal extending to its north. Humid air blankets the country in the summers, and the winters are subject to cold southern winds.

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Map depicting the countries on the continent of South America

Natural Geography of Paraguay

Geographic Regions

The Paraguay River divides the country into two distinct eastern and western geographic regions:

  • Eastern Region or Región Oriental (Paraneña): mostly grassy plains and wooded hills

  • Western Region or Región Occidental (Chaco Boreal): low, marshy plains

Eastern Region: Región Oriental (Paraneña)

The Eastern Region, also known as the Paraneña, extends from the Paraguay River eastward to the Paraná River, forming the country's border with Brazil and Argentina.

Approximately 95% of the country's population resides in the Paraneña region, covering roughly 160,000 sq km (61,700 sq mi).

An extension of the Brazilian Plateau, the region is dominated by a fertile, cultivated landscape that features rolling hills, low mountains, and subtropical forests.

The Eastern region can be divided into five physiographic subregions:

  • Paraná Plateau: occupies one-third of the area and extends its entire length from north to south, approximately 145 km (90 mi) westward from the Brazilian and Argentine borders

  • Northern Upland: consists of a rolling plateau about 180 m (590 ft) above sea level

  • Central Hill Belt: encompasses the area in the vicinity of Asunción and consists of uneven rolling terrain with numerous small isolated peaks and a few lakes

  • Central Lowland: an area of low elevation and relief, sloping gently upward from the Paraguay River toward the Paraná Plateau

  • Ñeembucú Plain: an alluvial plain consisting of a swampy lowland bisected by the Tebicuary River, a major tributary of the Paraguay River

Shaded relief map of Paraguay

Shaded relief map of Paraguay

Western Region: Región Occidental (Chaco Boreal)

The Western Region is also known as the Chaco or Chaco Boreal, part of the Gran Chaco. The Chaco's hot scrublands and low plains cover about 60% of Paraguay's land area. It is one of the most sparsely populated regions in South America.

Separated from the Eastern region by the Paraguay River, the Chaco region is a vast plain with elevations reaching no higher than 300 m (980 ft) and averaging 125 m (400 ft).

The Paraguayan Chaco is subdivided into two parts:

  • Upper Chaco or Dry Chaco makes up the western three-quarters of the Chaco region, bordering Bolivia

  • Lower Chaco or Humid Chaco borders the Paraguay River in the east

Map depicting the geographic regions of Paraguay

Map depicting the geographic regions of Paraguay

Bodies of Water

Major Rivers

  • Paraguay River: South America's fifth-largest river

  • Paraná River: the second longest river in South America

  • Pilcomayo River: the longest western tributary of the Paraguay River

  • Bermejo River: flows from Bolivia to the Paraguay River

  • Aquidabán River: a tributary of the Paraguay River

Notable Lakes

  • Lago de la República: Ciudad del Este

  • Lake Ypacaraí: east of Asunción

  • Lake Ypoá: south of Asunción

  • Lake Verá: east of Asunción

Natural Regions

Ecological Regions

The following is a list of terrestrial ecoregions in Paraguay, as defined by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Paraguay is in the Neotropical realm. Ecoregions are classified by biome type - the major global plant communities determined by rainfall and climate.

Tropical and subtropical moist broadleaf forests

Tropical and subtropical dry broadleaf forests

  • Dry Chaco: comprised of several habitats, although savanna and thorn forests predominate

Tropical and subtropical grasslands, savannas, and shrublands

  • Humid Chaco: a mosaic of ecosystems including woodland and savanna where various species of trees, shrubs, and coarse grass develop

  • Cerrado: the largest savanna region in South America

Flooded grasslands and savannas

  • Pantanal: the largest wetland in South America

  • Paraná flooded savanna: the middle and lower Paraná River floodplains and its tributary, the Paraguay River - have primarily been converted to agriculture or occupied by urban development.

Map depicting the ecoregions of Paraguay

Map depicting the ecoregions of Paraguay

Administrative Divisions

Paraguay is divided into two regions, seventeen departments, and one capital district for administrative purposes. Each department is subdivided into districts and has a capital city.

    Oriental Region - Departments (Capital City):

    • Distrito Capital (Asunción)

    • Concepción (Concepción)

    • San Pedro (San Pedro de Ycuamandiyú)

    • Cordillera (Caacupé)

    • Guairá (Villarrica del Espíritu Santo)

    • Caaguazú (Coronel Oviedo)

    • Caazapá (Caazapá)

    • Itapúa (Encarnación)

    • Misiones (San Juan Bautista)

    • Paraguarí (Paraguarí)

    • Alto Paraná (Ciudad del Este)

    • Central (Areguá)

    • Ñeembucú (Pilar)

    • Amambay (Pedro Juan Caballero)

    • Canindeyú (Salto del Guairá)

    Occidental Region - Departments (Capital City):

    • Presidente Hayes (Villa Hayes)

    • Alto Paraguay (Fuerte Olimpo)

    • Boquerón (Filadelfia)

    Map of administrative divisions of Paraguay

    Map of administrative divisions of Paraguay