Ep. 24 – Paraguay


Our short video from our week in Paraguay, the country often skipped by people who are backpacking South America! We spent most of our time in the beautiful riverside town, Encarnacion & visited the nearby Jesuit ruins.

As always, don’t forget to watch in 1080p!

Thanks for watching,

Sophie & Dave

Jesuit ruins, Encarnacion, Paraguay

Ciudad del Este, Encarnacion & Asuncion – Paraguay


So our first impression of Paraguay after going to Iguazu falls was of the border city with Brazil: Ciudad del Este. Now that first impression was definitely not a good one. Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in Paraguay yet it seemed only to be used as a place for Brazilians to cross the border and buy knock off and cheap tax free goods. When the Brazilians left, the city shut down. We saw so many people walking around with shotguns over their shoulders and in the short time we were out in this city, we saw 3 overt cases of child labour with kids no older than 12 doing shoe shining reminiscent of our time in India earlier this year. Needless to say we weren’t in the market for plasma screen TVs so we were very keen to leave the next day.

We had a week in Paraguay before flying to Bolivia and we both were thinking oh no, what have we done? Paraguay is awful. We headed to the bus terminal early, not knowing what to expect. I must say, so far, Paraguay is the one country this year where speaking Spanish is a necessity. Normally you can just google other people’s travel blogs to know which bus company to take, what the timetable is, the cost etc. But for Paraguay, there’s barely any information online. Arriving at the bus terminal was intense; instantly we were swarmed with bus ticket sellers yelling in all directions. This had never happened to us anywhere! I mean of course we’ve been hassled by vendors but never about legitimate transport tickets at a bus station. We tried to ignore the hassling and focus on looking at the bus company windows. It seemed most counters were just going to the capital, Asuncion. So I eventually asked and was pointed in the direction of the far right hand side of the station to a company called El Tigre. Fortunately there was a bus within the hour. Whilst we waited, we realised that we were the only tourists in the entire bus station. They do say Paraguay is not yet part of the ‘Gringo trail’ and this certainly seemed to reinforce that. We were unsure on what the bus standard would be. So far, South American buses have ranged between pleasant to extreme luxury but having seen the rickety old buses driving around Ciudad del Este, our hopes weren’t high. However we were pleasantly surprised as it turned out to be a double decker tourist style bus with a toilet. It was just very dirty and freezing cold given all the air con vents were broken but it cost us G$50,000 (£6) for the 6 hour trip. Mental maths of changing Paraguyan Guaranis to Pounds was great fun; G$7400 to £1.

So anyway, about us saying Paraguay was awful, turns out that was a load of rubbish. We really disliked Ciudad del Este but Encarnacion was like a different country! Encarnacion is a 400 year old city built along the river front that lies between Paraguay and Argentina. It was quite surreal being able to look out across the river and see the city skyline of a different country (Posadas, Argentina). There was a spectacular sunset looking out in that direction practically every night we were there, we also had the same beautiful view from our hotel room. Though there aren’t really tourist attractions “to do” here, we really enjoyed it just because it was such a relaxed place. We had only booked 2 nights initially but ended up staying 4. The main thing to do in Encarnacion is simply to take the time to stroll along the river front where there was a little beach called Playa San Jose, it reminded us quite a lot of the promenade walk, La Rambla, in Montevideo. By day, we didn’t see many people in the streets of Encarnacion, but in the evenings, the board walk came alive with groups of traditional maté tea drinkers sitting on benches and chatting. There wasn’t that many food options, especially on a Sunday, and Dave was distraught to have to resort to eating McDonald’s. However, we did find one amazing restaurant; Hiroshima, a really reasonably priced Japanese place. We got boat loads of sushi, literally, they served them in little boats.

One day we decided to visit the Jesuit Ruins in Trinidad, on the outskirts of Encarnacion. In the 18th century, Spain and the Catholic church, believed that the religious movement of the Jesuits was becoming too powerful and thus they were expelled from Paraguay leaving their establishments abandoned. The weather was really hot and while it was only a short 30 minute bus ride out of town, unfortunately the bus didn’t depart on schedule and waited for other passengers to hop on board until it was virtually full. This would have been fine apart from it was like a sauna on board and both of us, while dripping in sweat, were seriously doubting whether it was even worth going. Apparently the ruins are one of the least visited UNESCO world heritage sites in the world; and if I am honest I can’t say I am surprised. While they obviously hold historical importance, when you compare them to other ruins, such as the temples of Angkor, they really aren’t that impressive to the eye. However, it was quite nice to be the only ones there and potter round the grounds independently and have a picnic under the shade of a tree. There are more ruins located 12km from the main highway in Jesus de Tavarangue. However, transport options are severely limited and neither of us fancied walking in the midday heat so we decided to give them a miss and catch the bus back to Encarnacion.

One of the main reasons we stayed for 4 days in Encarnacion was because when we were researching Asuncion, the capital, the top thing to do was to visit a shopping centre… On our travels so far we’ve realised that we usually much prefer the smaller cities to the capitals. We used the same bus company, El Tigre, for the 7 hour journey, though this bus had the opposite problem of no air con working so we were sweltering. We finally arrived and were quite glad we chose to spend most of our time in Encarnacion. We used our only day in Asuncion to catch up on laundry, very exciting. When it was time to head to the airport for our flight, we asked the hostel to help us book a taxi but they reassured us that the bus was really easy, picking us up outside the hostel and dropping us at the departures entrance. We are usually all for buses unless heading for a flight but as it was G$3,000 instead of G$100,000, we opted for the bus. The guy from the hostel even put us on what he said was the correct bus. Turns out it wasn’t the right bus! It should have only taken 40 minutes but after an hour, we were concerned. I asked a lady on the bus and she said we were on the wrong bus! We jumped off and managed to get in a taxi and go back on ourselves to the airport. We were livid but we made our flight in time and all was okay.

Join us next time as we head to Bolivia!

Sophie & Dave


Iguazu Falls – Argentina, Brazil & Paraguay


We flew from Rio on an internal flight to Foz do Iguacu. Iguazu/Iguaçu falls was high up on our bucket list. It’s considered one of the natural 7 wonders of the world; spans 2 countries, has 257 individual waterfalls, comprises a width of 2,700 metres, and has an iconic waterfall called The Devil’s throat with an 80 metre drop! While we were fully aware that the area was renowned for its tropical weather, no one could have prepared us for the thunderstorms and rain that greeted us on arrival. We were literally wading through water on the streets. Fortunately, our year trip allows us flexibility so we ended up jumping between Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay for about a week! Our planning was a little tricky as we were amazed how little information of bus timetables/prices there was online. (We took photos of the bus timetables and put them at the end of this post in the practical info section for any future travellers).

We got the bus to the Argentinean side of the falls with the intention of going back to the Brazilian side later. They say you should allow 7 hours for the Argentinian side as there are various circuits and viewpoints to fully admire the surroundings. Therefore, we arrived too late so we visited the Triple Frontier instead where the border of Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet and where the Iguazu and Parana rivers converge.

Puerto Iguaçu, Cataratas de Iguaçu – Argentinian side
The following day we caught a bus early from the main bus terminal in Puerto Iguaçu to the falls (see practical information for more info). The entrance to the park costs $500ARS pp and annoyingly, after withdrawing money the previous day, they had a card machine at the till!

There are three main walking circuits; lower circuit (1.4km’s), upper circuit (1.75km’s) and the Devil’s throat (1.1km’s). We decided to embark on the lower circuit first, partly as all the tour groups seemed to be heading for the upper circuit, but also as we were both in agreement that waterfalls tend to look more impressive from the bottom up. We had both read about the various animals you can expect to see at the falls, including jaguars (although incredibly rare), and shortly into our walk spotted two toucans nestling in the trees, along with several Coatis which are sort of racoon/anteater/badgers. There are warnings throughout the park not to feed or approach the coati’s as they have a nasty bite and carry rabies. However, on the contrary to what we had read, they seemed incredibly docile and tolerant of annoying people harassing them. Along the way, we got our first glimpse of the spectacular falls. Unfortunately, due to the heavy rain earlier in the week, the water was a dark brown colour although the sheer volume and velocity of the falls still made it such an impressive sight.

We then caught the train (price included within the entrance to the park) up to the Devil’s throat. The walkway takes you right to the mouth of the waterfall where the falls drop 80 metres. Every time the wind blew, we got absolutely soaked! From here we were easily able to see the Brazilian side a short distance across the falls. We stopped for a picnic on the benches before catching the train back down towards the beginning of the upper circuit. It was at this point that some kind of insect stung me on my arm, leaving me in (no exaggeration) excruciating pain. Dave pulled out the sting, shook off his hand and stupidly went back to eating his sandwich without checking if it had actually fallen off. It must have still been on his hand as it pierced his lip and he proclaimed he would rather be kicked in the balls than stung by whatever that insect was. And he didn’t even get the full sting! We didn’t see what it was but it must have been some kind of Brazilian wasp.

After catching the train back down we then did the Upper circuit which gave a slightly different perspective from what we had seen earlier in the day.  Overall, we felt it was definitely worth it to complete all three circuits given the different view points and chances to see wildlife and rainbows in the mist! There is also the option to do a boat tour for $900ARS. However, as I was still in pain from the insect sting and both of us were quite tired by this stage, we decided to leave it until the Brazilian side. In hindsight, definitely do it on the Argentinean side if you get a chance as we later found out that the cost of the boat tour on the Brazilian side was over double!

We decided to get the bus across to Ciudad del Este and then head back on ourselves to tick off the Brazilian side of the falls. The bus ticket to Ciudad del Este cost $40ARS (£2), a bargain when you consider it crosses three borders as there is no bridge between Argentina and Paraguay so you have to drive through Brazil. The bus only stopped to stamp us out of Argentina and not at all in Brazil. We were hoping to jump off at the Paraguayan border and get our entry stamp. However, the bus didn’t stop there either – probably the most lax border control we have ever encountered! We dropped our bags off at our hotel and were feeling a little concerned that we had technically entered the country illegally, so we walked back across the bridge to Brazil and then re-entered as legal immigrants.

Foz do Iguazu – Brazilian side
After our first border crossing by foot, we continued walking onto the main bus terminal on the Brazil side. From here you can catch the 120 bus to Parque Nacional for $3.45BRL (see the bus timetable below). The falls are the last stop so you really can’t go wrong. The entrance to the park costs $64BRL and this includes a return coach transfer to where the walkway begins. The Brazilian side gives a completely different perspective, you are further away from the falls and higher up giving a much wider view. Unfortunately, our luck with the weather had run out and it was spitting throughout our visit. The walkway along the canyon is fairly short, finishing with a walkway out onto the lower basin of the Devil’s throat. There are several stop off points along the way but it seemed much more congested and crowded than what we had encountered on the Argentinean side. We went through the Brazilian side much quicker than the Argentinian, half a day to complete and admire the walkways on the Brazilian side was more than enough.


Practical information – Prices & Bus timetables for Iguaçu falls  October 2017

  • Puerto Iguaçu (Argentina) to Ciudad del Este (Paraguay) –
    $40ARS, 1 hour and a half, bus only stopped to stamp out of Argentina
  • Foz do Iguazu (Brazil bus station) to the waterfalls: 120 bus to Parque Nacional for $3.45BRL, 40 minutes
  • Puerto Iguaçu (Argentina) to the waterfalls [Cataratas], return ticket costs $150ARS, 35 minutes


Thanks for reading, join just next time as we head to Paraguay!

Sophie & Dave