Asuncion, Paraguay, is not your typical vacation destination. With a lack of conventional tourist attractions, the capital city is a city of contrasts, with both beauty and blemishes. Sitting on the banks of the Paraguay River, this once isolated and politically unstable city is filled with original colonial-era buildings and a more recent subtle sophistication that has drawn many travelers in recent years.
Asuncion has a smattering of international restaurants, cafés, shops and museums, as well as a vast array of lively downtown streets and plazas that pepper the riverfront. Though the city can become overcome with monstrous, diesel-spewing buses, the majority of the historic and entertainment districts of the city are accessible by foot. Attractions such as the Museo de Bellas Artes, displaying Paraguayan and South American artwork, and Panteon de los Heroes, housing the entombed remains of many fallen heroes of some of Paraguay’s catastrophic wars, are just some of the unique places of interest to visit within Asuncion.
Despite the modernization of parts of the city, few people speak fluent English and it is recommended that visitors have at least some knowledge of Spanish to get around. Considered one of the cheapest cities in the world to visit, Asuncionoffers a wide variety of indigenous crafts such as leather, carved wood and Paraguayan lace. Calle Palma is the main shopping street in the city and is a popular tourist hotspot with a charming blend of shops, restaurants and bars. With a combination of domineering urban culture and unique South American magnetism, Asuncion is well worth a visit.
A fusion of European, Spanish and indigenous flavors, Paraguayan cuisine was founded on two main staples -- corn and cassava (yuca root). These ingredients can take on many forms to create countless local dishes such as jopara, arro quesu and bife koyogua (beef with onions and fried eggs). Asuncion has a number of great restaurants serving both local and international fare. Confiteria Bolsi serves both dinner favorites and café selections with countless breads, cakes and pastries. For authentic Lebanese food, head over to Monte Libano and try the swamis (a Lebanese spiced meat sandwich). Lido Bar serves a variety of Paraguayan specialties in heaping portions. Don’t leave the city without trying the sopa Paraguaya -- cornbread with cheese and onions.
Paraguay’s main airport, Silvio Pettirossi International Airport (ASU), is located in a suburb of Asuncion and serves the entire region for international and domestic flights. There are no direct flights into the city when coming from anywhere outside of South America and all American and Canadian travelers must obtain a visa. The historic center of the city is small enough to explore on foot, though some of Asuncion’s main attractions, such as the Jardin Botanico, are outside of the city’s historical core. Though the bus system is fairly inexpensive, it can be confusing to use, especially if you don’t understand Spanish. Taxis are available throughout the city, but often charge a surcharge for fares after 10 p.m.
Asuncion has a humid subtropical climate with a short dry season that lasts from June to September, and a wet season that covers the remainder of the year. The majority of the seasons remain hot and humid, with the hottest temperatures creeping up in the winter months and cooling down slightly in the summer. The average highs for winter are around 91° F (33° C) and are around 73° F (23° C) in the summer. The best time to visit the city is from mid-spring to mid-autumn, when the temperatures are more mild and the humidity and precipitation is at a minimum.