The hike was harder than you expected. Cerro Cristo Rey looked like a little flat-topped hill when you arrived at its base this morning. But the trail was actually quite steep. By the time you reach the top, you’re breathing heavy and sweating under the now-hot sun. Two crumbling altars, dedicated to Jesus, are perched on the ledge. Your attention is on the green valley in front of you though. It’s full of orange trees and fields of sugarcane and tobacco. A domed cathedral stands in the middle of it all.
Caacupé Cathedral, built in 1765, is a massive Catholic basilica. It’s home to the Virgin of Caacupé, a statuette of the Virgin Mary carved for missionaries in the early 16th century. After being saved from a huge flood, miracles were ascribed to it and a religious festival, El Día de Virgen (Our Lady of the Miracles), is held every year to honor it. More than 300,000 pilgrims flocked to Caacupé to ask the Virgin Mary for favors last week. The small city is once again calm and quiet.
Your plan is to visit the cathedral, as well as the smaller Iglesia San Vicente Ferrer and Cerro Kavaju (a hill with five natural stone terraces once used by Franciscan priests), but first, you must find your hotel to shower. Alta Gracia Parque Hotel’s open-air buildings are surrounded by fruit trees, old shady trees, and lush gardens. Fresh air tumbles down from the surrounding hills. Leaf-shaped chairs sit next to the pool. While the rooms are inspired by the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water.
Your suite is decorated with dark wood furniture, a king-sized bed, and goose-down pillows. A bubbling jacuzzi sits on the brick-enclosed terrace. You open a beer from the mini bar, shed your stinky clothes, and slip into the hot water. Your tired muscles immediately begin to relax. You move to the pool to cool off when the hot water starts to make you feel sleepy and then eat lunch outside with chirping birds. Eventually, you return to your room for the quick shower you promised yourself earlier, before heading out to finally explore Caacupé. If others have found miracles, who knows what you’ll discover deep in Paraguay.