Paraguay Asuncion and the heartland
The once sidelined capital city is now home to parks, pergolas and an attractive riverside walk which complement its graceful colonial buildings and burgeoning creative scene.
Within living memory, Asuncion was best known for only having one traffic light. Of all the capital cities in Latin America, this was perhaps the most side-lined, in spite of having a colourful and eventful history. The city attracted few visitors beyond backpackers making their way to Brazil or Bolivia, but now it has earned the right to be considered a worthy destination in its own right.
Parts of the city are still stuck in a time-warp of poverty, and lack public services. But the once crumbly centre (part of its charm in its day) has been spruced up, with new parks, pergolas and period street lamps illuminating its evocative corners. The always attractive riverside walk has been pedestrianised. Graceful old colonial buildings are still a draw, but political turbulence has spawned a burst of creative activity, especially among the young population, and murals, new bars, hotels and restaurants reflect a renewed optimism and enthusiasm.
Beyond the capital but still within easy reach is sleepy Sapucai, a seemingly forgotten village which was once the centre of Paraguay’s rail industry. The railways were built with the help of British engineers and the enormous train sheds - now a museum - house wagons and old machinery bearing British insignia whilst steam engines lie in their final resting places, some abandoned outside in overgrown fields.
Within 1-2 hours’ drive of Asuncion is a necklace of typically Paraguayan small towns, known as the Golden Circuit. Some have their own tradition of arts and crafts such as intricate filigree jewellery and lacework. Others are interesting for their place in Paraguayan religious or political history: sleepy rural Pirebebuy was briefly the capital of Paraguay. There are small lakeside resorts one of which, Aregua, is popular among artists and weekenders with its cobbled parade of faded mansions and pretty plaza.
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Where to go when - our guide to Asuncion and the heartland
The weather in Asuncion and the heartland is wide and varied
Long neglected by visitors, Asuncion has a colourful and eventful history. After a period of political turbulence it’s city centre has been regenerated and the old colonial buildings spruced up, the murals, bars, hotels and restaurants reflecting a new era of creativity and optimism. Within easy reach of the capital are some typical Paraguayan towns and villages known as the Golden Circuit where you will find arts and crafts, religious and political history and even a forgotten village which was once the centre of the rail industry. You can visit the area year round but December to February can be very hot with temperatures typically reaching 35°C. In February / March Asuncion in particular celebrates carnival with plenty of music, dancing and parades.View our Asuncion and the heartland weather guide
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Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.
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Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.
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Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.
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Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
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Having caught the travel bug as a child, Millie has travelled all over Latin America before making her home in Buenos Aires for 3 years.