Minimum time: 2 weeks.
Due to weather conditions (heat and rain) and limited transportation options, this trip is best undertaken by those with a flexible travel schedule and not recommended between the months November and March (see Traveling along the Paraguay River).
From Asuncion head north to Concepcion. The white sandy shores along the pristine Laguna Blanca, off Route 3, make for an enjoyable beach getaway during the summer, though bird lovers will find the trip to be worthwhile year round. Once in Concepcion, stay either in town or enjoy the scenery and home cooked meals of Granja El Roble in nearby Belen. A visit to Parque Nacional Cerro Cora overlooking Amambay's strange rock formations is a doable daytrip from Concepcion, though you should get an early start.
From Concepcion, take the three day trip to Bahia Negra on the Aquidaban passenger boat (departs weekly).
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For travelers on a budget this is a great way to enjoy the scenery of the Paraguayan Pantanal. Once in Bahia Negra, visit the nearby indigenous community of Puerto Diana and then head upriver to the Tres Gigantes birding station (it is best to make arrangements with Guyra Paraguay ahead of time). The station is named after three endangered animals found in the area: the giant anteater, giant armadillo, and giant river otter. Wildlife is abundant in this area and tourists are rare.
Travelers wishing to continue on to Bolivia can hire a motorboat to take them upriver to Puerto Busch. Upon the return trip those who wish to minimize river travel can disembark in Fuerte Olimpo or VaUem^ and continue by bus to Asuncion or Concepcion respectively. In Fuerte Olimpo, be sure to climb to the top of the Cerro Tres Hermanos for an unparalleled view of the Pantanal. In Vallemi, guides can take you to recently discovered limestone caves as well as on a tour of Paraguay's national cement factory.
Additional side trips and recommendations: Flying to Bahia Negra and returning by boat downriver is the fastest and most comfortable way to do this trip. However, flights to Bahia Negra are often rescheduled or cancelled at the last minute due to poor weather conditions or lack of passengers. Therefore, this is only practical for travelers with flexible schedules.
Though it takes a fair bit of leg work, travelers with very flexible schedules and budgets (and a taste for adventure) can combine a trip to Bahia Negra with some nature observation in the Chaco. The best way to do so is to travel from Bahia Negra or Fuerte Olimpo to Filadelfia (if traveling from Bahia Negra to Fuerte Olimpo by boat you will have to prearrange your accommodations as the boat usually arrives past midnight). You might want to hire someone to drive you or consider taking the bus towards Asuncion and getting off at the Cruce de los Pioneros crossroads where you can catch a bus to Filadelfia. Tours from Filadelfia to the remote Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco or more easily accessible Parque Nacional Teniente Enciso should be previously arranged. It is sometimes possible to visit both with public transportation (buses to Teniente Enciso leave from Mariscal Estigarribia) but attempting this in combination with the trip to Bahia Negra is likely too complicated for most. Those who wish to continue on to Santa Cruz, Bolivia can travel from
Filadelfia to Mariscal Estigarribia and catch buses there.
The Paraguayan Chaco by Land
This itinerary is set up with backpackers coming from Bolivia in mind.
Take the bus from Santa Cruz, Bolivia disembarking at Cruce los Pioneros in order to catch a bus to Filadelfia. From Filadelfia take a guided tour of the region's salt lagoons, where wildlife abounds, and historic Chaco War battleground Fortm Boqueron. Nature buffs should consider side trips to either Parque Nacional Defensores del Chaco or Parque Nacional Teniente Enciso as these are known habitats of jaguar and other endangered species. Both are sporadically accessible by public transportation but it is best to arrange a guided tour ahead of time. Head south to Pozo Colorado and then catch a bus to Concepcion. Relax at Granja El Roble in Belen for 1-2 days and then head south to Asuncion either by bus or on the Cacique II passenger boat (a full day's travel). Parque Nacional Cerro Cora is a doable daytrip from Concepcion. Those who wish to cross in to Brazil rather than travel to Asuncion can continue from the park to Pedro Juan Caballero and then cross over into Ponta Pora, Brazil.