Asunción, Paraguay - Stein Travel



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Welcome to Asunción

Although Asunción lacks traditional 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 is as dirty and dilapidated as you might expect of a former South American police state, with peeling colonial and beaux-arts buildings dotted with interesting museums and a few scattered monuments, and chaotic traffic belching exhaust on crowded streets.

Yet Asunción has a lively spirit, and though its suburbs lack the old-world colonial look of the downtown area, they boast shopping malls, good restaurants, and lively nightlife, especially in the northeast towards Villa Morra.

Sightseeing in Asunción is pleasantly accomplished on a sunny day with a walking tour of the downtown area; key 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 Asunción.

The political, cultural, and economic heart of Paraguay, Asunción is worth a visit of several days. It also makes a great base for excursions to Ciudad del Este and Iguazu Falls, which is located only 201 miles (324km) away on the border of Argentina and Brazil.

Both Spanish and indigenous Guarani are official languages. English is rarely heard or understood.

The currency of Paraguay is the Guarani (PYG). United States dollars are also widely accepted. Visitors are advised to use banks or official Bureaux de Change for exchanging money rather than street exchange kiosks because there are many counterfeit notes in circulation. Travellers cheques are more easily exchanged with proof of purchase receipts. Credit cards are not widely accepted, but some hotels and touristic restaurants take MasterCard, Visa and American Express. There are numerous ATMs in urban centres, which take Cirrus, Maestro and Visa cards, but visitors who use them are advised to be cautious and vigilant because of the risk of crime. Banks are open on weekdays only between 7.30am and 11am.

Local time is GMT -4.

Located on the border with Brazil, Ciudad del Este is considered the top shopping destination in Paraguay. Ciudad del Este is one of the largest tax-free zones in the world, and the border crossing ha a steady stream of traffic from neighbouring for that reason. Bargains range from high-end electronics shops with computers and televisions to dodgy street vendors selling all manner of semi-legal goods. There are also a variety of good restaurants in Ciudad del Este. While it is considered fairly unattractive and is hardly a major tourist destination in its own right, Ciudad del Este is conveniently located for tourists heading to Iguazú Falls.

Encarnación, located 200 miles (374km) from Asuncion, is primarily a market town. The entire city was relocated when the Yacyretá Dam was built, and now a massive bazaar occupies the old town, offering all manner of goods for sale. Within this chaos, the Feria Municipal Market is a good place to eat. The main attractions of Encarnación are the ruins of the Jesuit Missions of La Santisima, Trinidad de Parana, and Jesus de Tavarangue, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and depicted in the 1981 film The Mission. The missions are accessible by bus from Trinidad.

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. One of the most idiosyncratic sights in Filadelfia is the statue of Fred Astaire on the Avenue Hindenburg. The town has one hotel and one tavern, and is supposedly secretly patronised by celebrities in disguise as there are no televisions.

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