Asunción Feels Far from the Rest of the World

I knew so little about Asunción before travelling there that I didn’t even know how to pronounce its name in English. I don’t think I had ever heard anyone mention the capital of Paraguay in my whole life.

Well, my first impressions were mixed. The taxi driver who took me to my hotel was great entertainment, as he told me all of the different things to see and the food to eat while here.

On the other hand, the view out of the taxi window didn’t seem particularly exciting. It was Saturday evening and the whole place looked like a ghost town. What sort of place had I ended up in this time?

The Historic Centre

Thankfully, things weren’t as bad as they had at first seemed. I was staying in the historic centre of the city, which is where most of the tourist attractions are but which gets kind of deserted later on in the day.

asuncion cathedral

A lot of this part of town was closed on Sunday, so I joined a big crowd of Paraguayans in renting a family-sized 3 seater bike type thing and riding along the Costanera coastal road. Here I was amazed to find a small beach, which my daughter loved playing on.

On Monday things picked up and it was great fun to wander around the centre. One of the best things to do here is to buy crafts, which are beautiful and really cheap. I picked up a new hat and my wife got some lovely new cotton dresses, while the little one was delighted with her traditional flute.

asuncion palace

The historic centre doesn’t have too many restaurants or shops but it does have the city’s best old buildings, such as the Palace, a Cathedral and some museums. It is a pleasant place to wander around and even in winter the weather was nice and sunny.

The Modern Part

I have to confess that I was surprised to pass through a gleaming, modern part of Asunción with flashy hotels, giant TV screens and loads of traffic. This section of the city was a bit too modern and brash for my liking but we did have some sushi together in the Shopping del Sol mall before heading home.

The modern side of Asunción seems to be something that the locals are proud of but I wasn’t really interested in this European type of setting. On the other hand, if you are in South America and want some modern fun then this is probably a surprisingly good option.

Other Things to Do

Asunción is a bit of a sprawling city, so it takes quite a bit of time to get around and see the different things in it. Taxis are also reasonably expensive, so it is worth working out how to use the bus. The locals will help you out if you need to find out which bus to take to anywhere and they will probably even flag one down for you and tell you how much to pay.

The Mercado 4 is a classic tourist destination. It is kind of like the local markets found all over the continent, although a bit bigger than most. This is a good value place to buy some clothes or souvenirs.

There is also a big botanic garden and a rather empty looking zoo. We also took our daughter to see a decent circus that was in town.

The best thing to do in my opinion is to head down to the dock and make a short boat trip. This is easier to do than you might think, despite it not really being a tourist attraction as such.

Next to the customs building in the terminal portuaria you will see small crafts heading out into the bay. They then head out into the pretty Paraguay River and stop in what looks like a deserted fishing town on the other side of the river. The whole trip takes only about 15 minutes and then you make the return trip in the same way.

It is a nice way to see Asunción from a different point of view and it only costs a couple of US dollars to make the trip. You need to get on the craft that goes to “Chaco E” to do this, as I think there is a longer trip from here that goes to a town in Argentina.

Overall, this is a city that feels unique and very far from the rest of the world. After a few days it is easy to feel right at home here and relax. However, if you want a city that has hundreds of different things to do then this probably isn’t the place for you.

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