Jesuit monks arrived in Paraguay in the early 1600s with the aim of educating and converting the native people of the area, and quickly established a major presence. Such a presence, in fact, that the ruling Spanish felt threatened and expelled them from the continent in 1767. They left behind the ruins of many missions, many of which can be seen today, and two of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Jesús de Tavarangüe and Trinidad del Paraná are located near the city of Encarnación, Paraguay, and can be visited on organised tours or by public bus. Trinidad, the larger of the two sites, is 29km from the city, about 500m from the main highway north.
Jesús is another 12km away, down a side road off the highway, and can be accessed by an infrequent and rickety bus.
The church at Jesús was never finished: construction started in about 1756, and although a lot of progress had been made, it wasn’t completed when the Jesuits were expelled. What you see today is similar to how the structure looked when it was abandoned.
Trinidad functioned as a town for about 60 years, and the ruins comprise more buildings than you’ll see at Jesús, including two churches, a bell tower and schoolrooms.
For more on Paraguay, check out our Paraguay page.