Asuncion, Paraguay © Anztowa
Although Asuncion lacks heavyweight tourist
attractions like distinctive geographical landmarks, sandy beaches,
or significant monuments, it has its own kind of charm for those on
holiday in Paraguay.
The downtown area may have seen better days but there
is a resilient romance to the neglected colonial and beaux-arts
buildings, and some interesting museums and monuments to check out.
The suburbs lack the old-world colonial aesthetic of the downtown
area but they do boast shopping malls, good restaurants, and a fun
nightlife, especially in the northeast towards Villa Morra.
Sightseeing in Asuncion is pleasantly accomplished on
a sunny day with a walking tour of the downtown area: popular
sights include the Versailles-style Palacio de Gobierno, the
National Cathedral, the Casa Viola Museum, and the Botanical
Gardens. The Mercado Quatro is a whole neighbourhood of market
space and is a great place to buy souvenirs in Asuncion.
The political, cultural, and economic heart of
Paraguay, Asuncion is a lively city and worth a visit for
travellers in the region. It also makes a great base for excursions
to popular attractions like Ciudad del Este and Iguazu Falls,
located only 201 miles (324km) away, near Paraguay's border with
Argentina and Brazil.
Cathedral of Ciudad del Este © Leon Petrosyan
Ciudad del Este
Located on Paraguay's border with Brazil, Ciudad del Este is the second largest city in Paraguay and is considered the top shopping destination in the country and the wider region. The border crossing gets a steady stream of traffic from neighbouring countries for that reason, with visitors taking advantage of the low taxes of the region.
Outlets range from high-end electronics shops selling the latest in computers and televisions to street vendors selling all manner of goods. Crowds of visitors swamp the city on Black Friday, the day following the fourth Thursday in November, when sales reach a frenzied peak.
Shopping is the major draw card to Ciudad del Este and the city is not considered particularly attractive to tourists beyond the retail opportunities, but there are some sightseeing options and a variety of good restaurants to enjoy. The city is conveniently located for tourists heading to Iguazú Falls or the Saltos del Monday waterfall, and idyllic camping is available less than two miles (3km) away in the Refugio Tati Yupi.
Encarnacion skyline © Motorway065
Encarnacion, located 200 miles (374km) from Asuncion, is primarily a market town. The entire city was relocated when the Yacyreta Dam was built, and now a massive bazaar occupies the old town, offering all manner of goods for sale. Many good places to eat are found within this wonderful chaos.
The main attractions of Encarnacion are the ruins of the Jesuit Missions of La Santisima, Trinidad de Parana, and Jesus de Tavarangue, listed jointly as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and depicted in the famous 1981 film The Mission.
The city also boasts a pleasant artificial beach along the river, which is a popular place for sunning, swimming, and recreational fun like jet skiing and boating. Encarnacion hosts Paraguay's most famous carnival celebrations in January and February, making this a fun time to visit the city and join in the revelry.
Filadelfia, Paraguay © Ilosuna
An island of German culture in Paraguay, Filadelfia was founded as a Russian Mennonite colony in 1930. The neat little community resembles a German suburb more than a Paraguayan city, and lacks a town centre.
Visitors can learn about the history of the colony at the Jakob Unger Museum, which offers tours in German and Spanish; and the Haushaltsmuseum, which has a particularly interesting exhibit on the Chaco War.
One of the most idiosyncratic sights in Filadelfia is the statue of Fred Astaire on the Avenue Hindenburg, while the shady park is filled with butterflies. The tiny town has only a few bars and restaurants and is supposedly secretly patronised by celebrities in disguise as there are no televisions.
It is a quirky sort of place but Filadelfia continues to attract a steady stream of curious visitors. The town is also a sort of gateway to the Chaco region because it is the last stop for things like groceries before heading out into the wild.