We very honestly only slipped into Paraguay to catch a cheaper flight (flying from Iguazu is $$$). It’s a sprawling city, but most areas we saw felt very similar, worn and crumbling from years of moisture and sun, buzzing with hardworking people. We ran in the morning and walked all day, making sure to dodge hanging wires, ankle twisting holes in the sidewalk, halting for cars (they won’t stop for you), dipping under vendor umbrellas, and darting between business men munching their morning empanada, all the while trying to absorb it.
We ended up at the favela which – we learned from an anthropologist at our hostel – is filled with families that live for free in makeshift homes along the banks of the river. The river continues to flood annually so the families, like we saw, move everything they have (not a lot) up into patchwork homes in the parks. We wandered through and saw kids playing and the normal family morning routines happening on a much smaller scale (the people and the quarters they are in), but we heard it’s not safe to delve much deeper.
With only two days to explore, we felt both intrigued by and confused by Asuncion and how and why it functions the way it does. It is almost refreshing how raw and untouristy it is. We heard from another well traveled man (retired at 45 and 5 years later still backpacking) that Paraguay has some incredible and remote nature to explore as well.
At a glance…
- Do visit the Mercado 4, it’s a trip. You can find anything from name brand sneakers, to fruit smoothies, to (barely) live turtles, and electronics.
- Eat at the local eatery, Lido Bar (thanks to our friend, Kirk for the tip)! It’s packed at lunchtime (12-1), wait for seats to open up at the bar and order from the no fuss women that bare a strong resemblance to the hearty empanadas they serve up. The portions are big btw and the juice is delicious (though they pile extra sugar in it).
- Sleep at El Nomada, a little oasis in the heat of Asuncion, super friendly staff and travelers, kitchen, little pool (which we questioned until the heat set in), movies projected outside at night, and AC in the dorms (huge). It was also near some great markets.
- Don’t wander too far into the favelas.
- Tips Lots of bug spray!