Immediately across the Paraná from Posadas  via the international bridge, the Paraguayan city of Encarnación barely merits a visit in its own right (though it’s morbidly fascinating to see the Yacyretá’s rising waters slowly submerge its historic downtown). It’s well worth crossing the border, though, to see the nearby Paraguayan Jesuit missions of Trinidad and Jesús de Tavarangue.
Both Trinidad and Jesús were relative latecomers in the Jesuit empire—Jesús, in fact, was still under construction when Carlos III expelled the Jesuits in 1767. Trinidad dates from 1706, but took more than five decades to its completion in 1760—only seven years before the Jesuits’ departure.
Trinidad, where more than 4,000 Guaraní once resided, sprawls across a grassy hilltop site, 28 kilometers northeast of Encarnación via Paraguay’s paved Ruta 6. Its pride was architect Juan Bautista Prímoli’s well-preserved red sandstone church, with equally well-preserved details like its intricately sculpted pulpit and statuary (Trinidad’s Guaraní were known for their statuary but also for finely made musical instruments that included bells, harps, and organs). On a more materialist level, the mission supported itself with plantations of yerba mate and sugar (which they milled here), and three cattle estancias.
Jesús occupies a similar hilltop site, 11 kilometers north of Trinidad via a dirt road that can become impassable with heavy rain. While it lacks Trinidad’s architectural details—after all, Jesús was never finished—it’s the only one of 30 Jesuit missions with a surviving bell tower.
Together with the older mission, Jesús makes an ideal half-day-plus excursion from Posadas . Schedules vary seasonally, but both generally stay open during daylight hours; each collects a token admission charge.
Buses from Encarnación’s central terminal (Avenida Estigarribia and General Cabañas) pass within a kilometer of Trinidad and also go several times daily to Jesús. These are cheap, but the trip can be done more efficiently (if more expensively) by hiring a taxi at the terminal.
U.S., Canadian, Australian, and Mexican citizens need visas (US$45 single entry, US$65 multiple entry, three photos required) to enter Paraguay. Paraguay’s Posadas consulate (San Lorenzo and Sarmiento, tel. 03752/42-3858, 7 a.m.–2 p.m. weekdays only) provides same-day service.