I love it when people ask me about South America and they say “did you go to Rio or Bariloche?” Because the answer is “no” and quite frankly, my fondest memories are places off the beaten path and Paraguay is on that list.
I was sentimental and inspired during my visit to the Paraguayan capital city of Asuncion. A lover of football, Jose Luis Chilavert might help explain why I ended up there.
Above is an impressive monument which is manned by soldiers down near the seafront in Asuncion, Paraguay.
1. Visit South America’s First Ever Train Station
I love trains, but you’ll be waiting a while if you want the next Paraguay to Bolivia service to leave Asuncion. Rather than relegate this train station to history’s dustbin, the Paraguayans have opened it as a museum. You can get on an old train and reminisce or take a fake train in Asuncion Train Station Museum in Paraguay.
2. Slums and Argentina
There’s nothing like a bit of simultaneous country viewing and Paraguay sits directly opposite Argentina. So much so than at various points you can stare over at Argentina. You’ll need to be in and around the slums to get a decent vantage point. Asuncion’s port is so untouristy, you’ll be mistaken for a native before you open your mouth. Although you can see Argentina from Asuncion, I must mention that I came into Paraguay from the other side. I took a bus from Ciudad del Este to get into Paraguay via the aiport there (at Luque) to leave heading to Santa Cruz de La Sierra. Crossing the border here is an option, and if you are on the other side of the country you can see Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay at the same time.
From the slums and the waterfront in Asuncion you can see across the water into Argentina. I always love viewing two countries at the same time.
3. “Do a Chilavert”
Personally my Panini Sticker albums as a child influenced and inspired my football dreams. I remember seeing Paraguay in the 1986 World Cup and wondering “who they were”. Just over a decade later and their goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert had become one of the world’s best keepers and a vital player in their international team which qualified for 4 consecutive World Cup Finals.
I snuck onto the field at Estadio Defensores del Chaco to reminisce about Jose Luis Chilavert and visited the national stadium. A local mused “this boys a nutcase” as I flew my well traveled Northern Ireland flag at the centre circle. My trip to the stadium here: Paraguay National Stadium.
4. Plaza de Los Heroes and Buildings
War and politics are never far away as a tourist and I was slightly moved by my trip here. A white building in Heroes Square (Plaza de los Heroes) houses the body of Mariscal Francisco Solano Lopez, a key figure from Paraguay’s past. It’s only a small room which is a monument and memorial to Paraguay’s chosen few. I’d recommend it. Paraguay is a proud country with an army and remember that it is a landlocked sandwich country.
Plaza de Los Heroes War Memorial in Asuncion, Paraguay.
Then have a walk round and admire the other buildings in Asuncion such as the Palace (Casa Gobierno), Cabildo Rosada (former Government House), the Metropolitan Cathedral and some really obscure and random buildings. Asuncion has a very odd and peculiar city centre. Walk at ease around it for hours and you won’t get bored!
The Palacio de Gobierno in Asuncion, Paraguay.
5. A Night Out On the Town
When the sun sinks from Asuncion’s skyline, the most surprising thing is that the city centre becomes the sort of ghost town even Casper would be surprised about. That’s when you get your party shoes on and enjoy yourself. Local beer is Pilsen but the Britannia Pub in the city brews their own beer which is worth trying.
Top photo credit: commons.wikimedia.org.