paraguay of Colombian salsa, Brazilian samba, Argentine tango and Andean folk music in the place where they were born. Buenos Aires’ sultry milongas (tango clubs), Rio’s simmering garrafeiras (dance halls), Quito’s salsotecas (salsa clubs) – all great places to chase the heart of a Saturday night. Yet this is only the beginning of a great musical odyssey that encompasses the Peruvian trovas, the soulful Ecuadorian passillos, the fast-stepping Brazilian forró, an act of whirling Venezuelan merengue, a pinch of steel-pan Guyanese drumming and what not. Paraguay – the Heart of South America There is one country, though, that escapes most travel itineraries. Paraguay, which is known by many as the heart of South America, still has an air of mystery to it (like serpentine climbers harbouring heaven’s magnum doors). Lesser-Known Paraguay brims with unique contrasts, nces, cultural cross-overs and authentic travel experiences, as though awaiting profound discovery by the e robust traveller. The virgin country is tucked away unassumingly in its unique geographical location, and for backpackers with an old- school map and an open mind, it offers untamed natural beauty, scorching summers and a fascinating colonial story just waiting to be discovered. Much of the landscape is ry wild and waiting to be explored yet. The country ndant supports its economy through its incredibly abundant natural resources; additionally, the bordering is home to the largest reservoir for drinking water in the world at Guaraní Aquifer. The Itaipú Dam is also the biggest producer of hydroelectric power and one of the largest exporters for soya beans and beef in the world. However, it is still comparatively cheap and o prices are on the lower side when compared to other South American countries. This means more savings for the Indian traveller. And there are a host of reasons more why India should welcome the mellow country as a tourism partner. Considering the unique psychosocial heritage, Paraguayans are loyal and devoted to their family, similar to the e Indians. tional The economic analysis provides additional niches for harbouring a strong partnership between the two countries. India’s recent travel statistics demonstrate that when travelling abroad, Indian tourists are among the world’s highest-spending globetrotters. Their spending power has been estimated to be four times that of the Chinese and Japanese. In fact, the Tourism Industry contributes to 6.88 percent to India’s total GDP, and the same has brought an earning of over $27 billion, apart from raising foreign exchange earnings by 20.2 percent (TripAdvisor, 2017). The 36 • PARAGUAY 2019 Tourism Sector is now contributing to a boosted employment rate in India which shot up by 12.36 percent in the past 2 years. Why Paraguay? Paraguay is a country of remarkable contrasts: it’s rustic and sophisticated; it boasts spectacular natural reserves and massive human-made dams; it is a place where horses and carts pull up alongside Mercedes Benz vehicles, artisans’ workshops abut glitzy shopping centres, and Jesuit ruins in rural villages lie just a few kilometres from interesting colonial towns. The steamy subtropical Atlantic Forest of the east is a stark contrast to the dry, spiny wilderness of the Chaco, the location of the isolated Mennonite colonies. In the words of an avid traveller, Asunción, the capital of Paraguay is a multicultural centre with its pink palace, great museums and old-school charm that resembles something from a Graham Greene novel. Cobbled streets wind through throug the city to the green curve of the Paraguay River, Riv fading baroque buildings are painted in tropical yellows and reds, and every plaza is tr ﬁ lled with pink blossomed Lapacho trees that leave a carpet of ﬂ owers on the ground. On a more historical note, Paraguay is the only South American country that achieved independence without a war - it is the only i country that right after independence was led co by a dictatorship. José Rodriguez de Francia was declare declared as the Supreme Dictator by the Congress itself and he ruled for almost 3 decades (1814 to 1840). Then, it was the ﬁ rst Latin American country to rise as a promising economic and military world-power, thanks to the protectionism and able leadership of Carlos Antonio López who became beca President in the year 1844. H Here are 10 additional boosts to mark the cou country for the next tourist destination: 1 1. Paraguay is a land of cowboys and Indians Cowboys in big sombreros (hats) ride bucking broncos at local ﬁ estas: one should tr try the January festivals in Santiago. Indians in feather headdresses sit outside the Panteón in As Asunción; the traveller must visit their reserve by the Pu Puente Remanso Bridge. 2. Spectacular National Parks Paraguay’s natural beauty encompasses everything from desolate wilderness to crashing waterfalls. 3. Paraguay’s tablecloths take 18 months to make To singlehandedly craft one of Paraguay’s intricate ao po’i lace tablecloths takes almost a year and a half. One must make it a point to see locals at work in delightful Yataitý.