Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay, must be one of the least visited and most misrepresented cities of South America. It’s capital Asuncion boasts a working port which is frequented by barges, small container boats and ferries. Destination guides for Asuncion are sometimes hard to get. Even more difficult to find are destination guides for handicapped travel.
It is said that a certain Senor Juan de Ayolas sailed the Paraguay river for many months searching for a way to get to the silver mines of Bolivia. Unfortunately he was killed by the Payagua on his return trip. Juan de Salazar was then dispatched to look for him (in vain). In August 1537 De Salazar visited the location of the present-day Asuncion and made the decision to found a fort there. He called it Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion.
It wasn’t long after the erection of the fort that word got out and it soon became an important base to explore from – both Bolivia’s Santa Cruz and Argentina’s Buenos Aires were founded by expeditions that left from Asuncion. Hence the name “the mother of cities”.
Asuncion is located next to the river Paraguay. The old part of the city, including the harbor, looks out over the Bay of Asuncion. A natural bay permits small vessels to come and go to their various destinations, one of which is Brazil.
The old city around the harbor, including the main street (Avenida Palma), is a decaying old place with lots of charm and character. A short trip down Palma will introduce you to many of the delights of Asuncion: you will no doubt be approached by one or more vendors selling chipa – the delicious Paraguayan bread made from corn flour or manioc; you will also no doubt hear traditional Paraguayan harp music emerging from the doorways of various stores and everywhere you will be able to buy the Nanduti lace for which Paraguay is famous.
Staying at the atmospheric old Hotel Armele is an experience in itself. You will have a view across the harbor and the Bay of Asuncion from most rooms. The evergreen Chaco on the other side of the river stretches as far as the eye can see.
Because of it’s heat in the summer months, the locals tend to frequent its many restaurants, bars, night clubs and open air festivals at night. Paraguayans love music and sing spontaneously in the streets. It’s not strange to hear a group of people walking and singing their favorite songs.
Make your way to the east of the town and you will be totally astounded at it’s modern buildings and opulent Villas. The two main arterials namely; Avenida Espana and Avenida Mariscal Lopez connect to this area which is known as Villa Morra. Here you’ll find glitzy shopping malls and upmarket coffee shops and restaurants. If it’s culinary delights you are after, then you need not look any further than Asuncion. The locals are excellent chefs and their food is prepared in such varieties that it’s truly a feast for the eye. You can also catch a movie at many of their multi-screen cinemas. If it’s orchestral music or a ballet you are after then the Paraguayan National Bank Theater offers concerts on a regular basis.
The city has a large number of hotels to suit all pockets. Budget hotels cluster around Plaza Uruguay, while near Plaza de los Heroes there are a number of four- and five star hotels.
Since destination guides for Paraguay are hard to find, the above information should be useful to visitors who plan to visit Asuncion – the Mother of Cities.
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