When you say “heart of America,” Paraguay isn’t exactly the first place that comes to mind. But as the landlocked center of South America, this country has all the authentic and welcoming atmosphere one expects in a heartland. And as its neighbors in Argentina and Brazil have changed to accommodate visitors, Paraguay seems a place that’s still much as it was decades ago.

It’s not the most straightforward place to visit, in large part because so many people speak Guarani, the only Indigenous language spoken by non-Indigenous people in the Americas. It’s also got the most chaotic side of Iguazu falls, a smugglers paradise where anything goes. It’s a wild, yet still-welcoming place, full of futbol fanatics and crazy border towns, leaving you with the kind of stories people won’t believe until they go.