After almost 2 months on the road backpacking South America, Paraguay was one of our last stops. It was an epic journey and every day was an adventure. Paraguay was initially not even on my radar but route-wise it worked out and it fit into our itinerary so we gave it a go. With only a couple of days to spare between Brazil and Argentina we decided to stay in the country's capital city, Asuncion.
So this was in 2010. I'm not sure in how far the city has changed but 7 years ago it was an interesting place to be in! From trendy restaurants to utter poverty right in the city center everything was possible. I didn't really know what to think about it and didn't get a feeling for the place for a couple of days. While I always felt safe, there were areas where you couldn't just go by yourself. One such place I remember was apparently by the river. There are some sights like government buildings there and guards used to patrol the street and take any tourists down there and after they finished exploring the area and taking pictures they were escorted back to one of the main streets. There wasn't much in the way of tourist infrastructure. I remember we visited two museums, one small local history museum and a railway exhibition. After the well-visited places I had seen in the past two months - all the way from Argentina through Chile, Bolivia, Peru and Brazil - Paraguay felt a whole lot different, almost like a window into the past.
I do remember eating at nice restaurants, spending the evenings in a roof-top bar with pub food and staying at a lovely place called The Black Cat Hostel - yes, they really did have a cat and a dog for us to play with :)
You probably wonder now if we went to the Iguazu Falls from Paraguay... but sadly no. We did visit them from the Brazilian side though.
Would I go back to Paraguay? Definitely! I'd love to see what it's like today and Encarnacion & Trinidad (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) are still on my bucket list!
Pretty much a MUST on any South America backpacking itinerary are the Bolivian Salt Flats! But getting there is an adventure in itself - namely a 3-day 4x4 tour through deserts, along frozen lakes and up to the geysers at ~ 4,900m/16,000ft altitude. It includes a night in a hostel made out of salt, flamingos & alpacas and the train graveyard in Uyuni.
We started our tour in San Pedro de Atacama in Northern Chile.
First stop: the Bolivian Embassy - which was a small brick building with a Bolivian flag in front of it in the middle of nowhere. Once we got our passports stamped we were off to explore some pretty crazy environments for the next couple of days.
It's incredible to witness how the landscapes & climates change: you start in flat desert terrain surrounded by mountains, then you climb up to check out the geysers and then down again past pristine lakes and before you know it you're surrounded by cactus plants and you'll get the first glimpse of the salt flats.
Needless to say, that we were completely off the grid during this trip - no cell connection and no WiFi. Granted, that was in 2010 - so things may have changed now. Or they haven't - in which case you'll be forced to give your full attention to the breathtaking scenery you'll find yourself in ;)
Get carried away!