Asunción, the capital of Paraguay, is located in the west of the country on the Paraguay River, and the Argentinian border is downstream. Asunción is said to be one of the oldest cities in South America, dating back to 1542 when the Spanish fled here after natives destroyed Buenos Aires and won independence in 1811.
You have a couple of options to get to Asunción:
1. Take a bus from Foz do Iguaçu (Brazil) or Ciudad del Este (Paraguay). The journey should take 6-8 hours,depending on traffic. If you come from Brazil (by Iguaçu falls) and catch a local bus or taxi across the bridge of Friendship into Paraguay, be sure to get off at both sides of customs in order to get your passport stamped. You can walkacross Friendship bridge, but it can unsafe at times – even for locals – especially at night.
2. Fly from major destinations across South America into Silvio, the nearby international airport.
Where to stay?
There are a couple of unsafe areas in the city – near one a local stopped me in the street and told us ‘gringos’ (white people) was not safe nearby, particularly foreigners, as they are perceived to be wealthy (wrong about me there!).
Some good areas to stay are:
• Villa Morra
• Las Lomas
• City Centre (Cathedral/downtown)
Asunción is a relatively small city and you don’t need more then a couple of days to see everything and do some shopping,as Paraguay is one of the cheaper countries to visit in South America. The city is small enough to walk to each landmark.
If you want to catch the bus there aren’t really specific bus stops in areas, you just hail one. Some of them are very colourful.
Taxis and Ubers are another way of getting around town.They are very cheap, even compared to the rest of South America.
Start your journey at Palacio de López, which is the president’s office and seat of government. It was built in 1857, several decades after the Declaration of Independence in 1811, in a neoclassical style. It stands out among the rest of the city as there are not many tall buildings, besides the odd hotel. In its light pink paint it really shines in the hot, bright sun.
You aren’t allowed to go in or even close to the Palacio as it is heavily guarded, but if you go around the back by the Paraguay River you can get a photo with the Asunción sign. These seem to be getting more popular across the entire world!
The Independence House Museum is the exact house those who fought for the independence of Paraguay left from to fight for their country’s freedom.
This makes the house historically significant for Paraguayans, and in 1965 it was turned into a museum with many historic pieces.
Unfortunately not much is written in English, but the museum is free so it is certainly worth a visit.
The name of this next landmark is a big one! The National Pantheon of Heroes and Oratory of the virgin Our Lady saint Mary of the Asunción (breathe) was built in 1936, after spending 70 years in scaffolding due to Paraguay’s involvement in the War of the Triple Alliance (the deadliestwar in Latin America, where Paraguay lost 40% of its proclaimed land).
This monument is a mausoleum that contains the remains of some historical individuals, including Carlos Antonio López,who was the first constitutional president.
The landmark is guarded by presidential guards who perform a changing of the guard several times a day.
The heat in Asunción can be ridiculous, especially in summer, with minimal shade except in Plazas. Plaza de la Democracia is where a lot of locals gather to rest and avoid that midday sun.
You’ll see plenty of them out there in the shade drinking their mate (the traditional drink of Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay).
Plaza Uruguay is another spot where you can find some shade and relax.
Be sure to do most of your sightseeing (if visiting in the hotter months) during the morning or late afternoon, this way you can take your time and ensure you’re not melting and rushing to see everything before hiding in the confines of your hotel/hostel.
A hidden gem you may not see is Estacion Central del Ferrocarril, which is an old railway station that has been converted into a small museum.
There isn’t much to see within it but you will find some interesting pieces, and the architecture of the building is quite fascinating.
It wouldn’t be a visit to a South American country without stopping by some churches/cathedrals. There are two major ones in Asunción that should be on your to-do list. Inglesia de la Encarnación can be found in the southern part of town and unfortunately is not in a great state.
Cathedral Metropolitana de Nuestra Señora de la Asunción isin the northern part of the town centre (we were warned not to go north of here) and is the main church in Paraguay.
The cathedral was inaugurated in 1845 and it has a vast interior, although its design is a little more basic than other cathedrals I’ve visited.
Across all of Asunción you’ll find many works of street art.
It was interesting to happen across new ones as I explored the city.
The centre of Asunción is fairly safe during the day, especially if you avoid particular neighbourhoods and take care not flash any form of wealth around as a tourist. Be vigilant and you’ll be able to comfortably enjoy the city.
Paraguay isn’t for every traveler, but for those who want to visit every country in the world or are a lover of fishing andvisiting wetlands in the northern parts of the country it can be an enjoyable stopping point.