Three Days Paraguay. Paraguay might be considered one of the ugly stepsisters of South America, with less than 650,000 tourists visiting this landlocked country. On this southern continent, Paraguay is only more popular than Guyana and Suriname, not household names for tourists. I spent three nights in Asuncion, the sleepy, river-based capital.
Asuncion is an acquired taste. There is no landmark beckoning you to witness its magnificence such as the Christ Redeemer soaring above Rio de Janerio or the majestic Machu Picchu ensconced in the Peruvian Andes.
I will share with you how I spent my time visiting this country of less than seven million.
What To See
Asuncion is a very walkable city, very quiet and easy to navigate. And like many Spanish colonized countries, there are many plazas to stroll around. Feel free to relax, people watch, and check out some of the statues located in this plaza.
Estacion Central del Ferrocarril
Located on the plaza, it is the former train station and now present-day museum. Don’t worry about fighting off the crowds here. While I went to visit during opening hours, the museum was locked. I spied one of the workers drinking mate in the back who let me for the economical ticket price of 10,000 Guerani ($1.77). The Asuncion-Encarnacion line was the first in South America in1861 and one of the carriages that traveled this line is in the museum today.
Catedral Catolica Metropolitana de Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion
Wow, that is a mouthful. This is the main Catholic church which was inaugurated in 1845. It sits on the Plaza de Armas.
Casa de la Independencia
A small museum tracing the history of Paraguay. This country was the first on the continent to declare its independence 1811.
Plaza de la Democracia
Another laidback plaza to relax in. During my visit a number of vendors had set up shop on the plaza offering food and drink. I had a tasty drink on a hot afternoon.
Panteon Nacional de los Heroes y Oratorio Catolico de la Virgen
Adjacent to the Plaza de la Democracia is the Panteon Nacional. Unfortunately it was closed during my visit. An honor guard protects the remains of former President Lopez and other former military heroes.
Palacio de Lopez
This striking structure is the house of the executive branch of Paraguay. Guards will prevent you from getting to close, but you are allowed to take photos from a distance.
Cerro Lambare offers a bird eyes view of Asuncion on this hill about 500 feet high. And on top of the hill is a monument of Cacique Labare, an indigenous leader, at the time of Spanish colonization. Hang out with the locals who are lounging and picnicking in the area.
I noticed some cool art when wondering the city.
The handful of people I spoke with were friendly and helpful. Some a bit surprised to see an American traipsing around.
Where To Eat
An Asuncion institution since 1960, Bolsi is open 24 hours a day. I had a great empanada here and gorged myself on a rich dessert. It was packed when I visited and it was in between lunch and dinner.
Another dining tradition is the Lido Bar that was opened in 1953. Slide up to the counter and grab a meal.
Lo de Osvaldo
Parts of South America are well known for great steak and Paraguay walks the walk when it comes to beef. Adjacent to the Crown Plaza is Lo de Osvaldo. I had an incredible, giant filet with a delicious provoleta, fried provolone. My meal was under $30. It also doubles as a sports bar. If you like steak, I definitely recommend a visit here.
Where To Stay
Crown Plaza Asuncion
There are a lot of hotel options in the city. I chose the Crown Plaza and used some IHG points for a free stay. It is a comfortable hotel, decent breakfast, good wifi, and good location to walk the city.
Outside Of Asuncion
I also spent a day visiting outside of Asuncion.
Just 15 km outside of Asuncion is the town of Luque. It was briefly the former capital of Paraguay in 1868 when Paraguay battled the Triple Alliance of Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay in the Paraguayan War. Luque is well-known as the center also for guitar and harp production. I went to visit the home/business of a local craftsman. There is also a vibrant silver and gold jewelry industy in the town as well.
Aregua located 28 km from Asucnion is also known as the City of Strawberried as you might guess from its plethora of strawberry farms. I munched on a tasty strawberry dessert during my visit. The town also rests on the shores of Lake Ypacarai, the largest body of water in Paraguay. Aregua is also home to a busy ceramics industry. And finally amble down Ruta Aregua and check out the old colonial homes, in varied levels of repair. At the top of the street, sits Iglesia de Aregua, which offers a view of the lake.
Paraguay was not an unpleasant experience, but compared to the other countries that I visited in South America it lacks charm and major points of interest. I would save Paraguay for one of the last countries to visit on the continent. Three Days Paraguay