Asunción doesn’t draw the crowds of Buenos Aires or Rio de Janeiro, but the Paraguayan capital’s easy-going vibe makes it welcoming for travellers. One of the oldest settlements in South America, the crumbling colonial buildings and uneven roads only add to its charm. You can check out the recently upgraded riverside, La Costanera, before joining locals sipping cold tereré tea and eating grilled chipa (baked cheese rolls) in shady plazas.
The city’s mellow feel extends to hostels with plenty of communal space. You can cool off in an open-air pool, or grab a drink and practise your Spanish at an on-site bar. In Asunción’s first eco-hostel powered by solar panels, try to nab one of the hammocks in an oasis-style garden surrounded by fruit trees. An Asunción hostel usually comes with a fully equipped shared kitchen, as well as barbecue facilities, for cooking up a tasty meal.
Famous for its striking sunsets, La Costanera is the city’s promenade, stretching out along the River Paraguay. On weekends, do as the locals do and head here for bike rides, kite flying, or simply to relax on the small sandy beach. Loma San Jerónimo is a multicoloured neighbourhood, known for its winding staircases covered in brightly hued paintings and drawings. For a break from city life, wander through Parque de la Salud to spot monkeys and birds in the trees.
Telling stories from Paraguay’s darker days, the thought-provoking Museo de Las Memorias was a detention centre during General Alfredo Stroessner’s dictatorship, which lasted from 1954 to 1989. Another museum, Museo del Barro, traces 400 years of indigenous culture and displays more than 4,000 pieces including wood carvings, textiles and ceramics. The Mercado Cuatro is filled with street-food stalls selling grilled meats and corn – ideal for grabbing a snack on the go – and shops selling indigenous crafts and local produce.
You can rent a bike or stroll along La Costanera and through surrounding neighbourhoods, but you might want to jump on a city bus for more far-flung destinations. Aeropuerto Internacional Silvio Pettirossi is 20km from Asunción, with flights to surrounding countries, as well as destinations outside South America. A Vanguardia bus will take you from the airport to a bus stop 300m from the Terminal de Ómnibus. The terminal is a few kilometres outside of downtown and connects with domestic cities, as well as neighbouring countries like Bolivia and Argentina.