Landlocked Paraguay is not a country that many people go to. There are reasons why. It is also a question I heard asked on my South American journey. Is Asuncion worth visiting?
Asuncion is the Capital of Paraguay and has a population of just over half a million people. That makes it small in comparison to some of the major cities in South America. Cities such as Lima, Quito and Bogota can have up to 50% of their country’s population.
I ended up going to Paraguay because I could not visit nearby Bolivia due to political instability there at the time.
I was really an accidental tourist when I arrived in Asuncion. Maybe because of this I can give an objective review of Asuncion Paraguay.
There are not many tourists here.
For me, the biggest tourist attraction in Asuncion is the fact that not many tourists go there. It is one of the few capital cities in the world where you can experience people who have not been affected by tourism.
This has a lot of benefits. You are less likely to be asked for an inflated tourist price when you buy something. You are less likely to meet a pickpocket as mass tourism is not the norm here.
Stroll around the sleepy city centre
This is another positive for me. Asuncion is not Lima or Buenos Aires. It feels like a sleepy capital city. The centre is more chilled out than most other capital cities.
You will not find the crowded footpaths. People will not be pushing stuff you don’t want to buy in your face every five minutes. Ok, you will also not find a lot of bars, shops and restaurants here, but you can do that at home.
Check out the good bad and the ugly
There is no good way of saying it, but a lot of Asuncion is run down even in the centre. It reminded me of some countries I had seen in Eastern Europe after communism collapsed. The irony is Paraguay was very anti-communism for most of its recent history.
The positive is as you walk around, you can see a lot of potentials to make this city a great place to live.
Street Graffiti. Is Asuncion worth visiting
As in most other South American cities, you will see some great street graffiti. It makes those not so good buildings look that bit better.
Take a trip to the beach but you won’t need your swimwear.
Playa de La Costanera is a small artificial beach located just in front of the city on the Rio Paraguay. It is a recent and nice addition to the city. The calm river provides a pleasant background.
While it is a nice place to visit as the sun is setting it is not advisable to swim here as the Paraguay river here is heavily polluted.
Visit Mercado 4
South American markets are great. They have not lost their relevance over the years. They are still the go-to place for most of the local population. The main reason people go there is that you can buy just about anything there.
Mecardo 4 is the most popular market in Asuncion. You can but your fruit and veg. Your meat. Eat here and even get your haircut. It is about a fifty-minute walk from the centre or a cheap taxi.
It is never easy or always fair to criticise a city that lacks the proper resources for litter issues. In Asuncion, the system seems to be a problem. People put their litter out in small bags for collection. I am not sure if they put out too early or the collection comes too late. The end result is that a lot of litter is blown away from the collection areas.
What can be criticised is that I did see a lot of people throw litter on the street as they were walking. This is a problem in many South American countries but not all.
Relax in one of the city centre parks
The parks in Asuncion could do with a bit of renovation, but they are still a nice place to visit on a warm day. Just pick a seat in the shade and watch Asuncion life go slowly by.
Check the weather before you go.
I was in Asuncion late spring. The temperature was over 40c on most days. Remember the seasons are in reverse from Europe and North America.
Presidential palace Asuncion
The most attractive building in Asuncion is the Presidential Palace. It can only be viewed from the outside. South American Presidents tend to be men/women of the people only until they are elected.
You are never too far from homeless people as you walk around Asuncion. Many moves from the river area when it rises to overflow levels.
The above picture is of indigenous people camped outside a government building. They are protesting what they say is the theft of their lands by big corporations.
Train station museum
The trains no longer run in Asuncion but at least the old la Estacion Central del Ferrocarril has been turned into a museum. For a small fee, you can turn back the clock and imagine how the station was in its prime.
Meat is king in Paraguay. The main dishes are beef, pork and chicken.
Some areas of the city are prone to power cuts. Might be good to know if you’re wondering why the power is not working in your rented accommodation.
Ok are you still asking the question Is Asuncion worth visiting. For me, it was worth visiting 100%. Ok, it has its issues, but its weakness is also its strength for those tourists that want something a bit different.
One downside is unlike most places I have been Asuncion centre seems to be just let deteriorate. There seems to be no plan to fix footpaths or upgrade pubic areas. The centre is your showcase. Other South American cities look after their centres.
It is a bit rough around the edges and in the centre, but the people are friendly. If you are on a long journey in South America, it could be a good place to stop and recharge the batteries.
Is Asuncion worth visiting? I enjoyed my time in Asuncion, but it may not be for everyone.
I felt completely safe all of the time I spent in Asuncion. Some people did approach me to advise I was walking into a dangerous area as I was walking down to the riverfront. Their words, not mine.
It was a shantytown. I am sure the people living there was ok, but I did take the advice of the locals.
If you want to read more about my travels click here.
For more information on Paraguay click here.
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