The culture of Paraguay... top attractions

| November 17, 2014

You may be familiar with Paraguay’s natural attractions, but how much do you know about its cultural sites? Discover another side to Paraguay with our guide.

Iguazu Fall. Photo credit: Thinkstock/ iStock

Celebrated for its stunning natural scenery, Paraguay is a fascinating place. While ranking among South America's least densely populated countries, it possesses some truly fascinating culture, including the vestiges of the colonial regime, and indigenous peoples.

Because the natural attractions here are so spectacular, they often occupy the limelight. Today, we will be putting its natural wonders to one side for a moment to take a look at what the nation has to offer in terms of culture.

An introduction to Asuncion

The primary focus for any cultural trip to Paraguay has to be Asuncion – the capital city. Possessing an intriguing medley of colonial features and modern life, Asuncion is utterly charming. Its bustling plazas and excellent museums also help make it a fantastic place to learn more about Paraguay as a whole, from the culture of the here and now to its fascinating history.

What's particularly interesting about Asuncion is the mixture of the colonial and the modern. The attractive colonial buildings cannot escape your attention, and in places seem to to transport you to a bygone age, but there's plenty of modern sophistication here too in the form of trendy nightclubs and gleaming shopping centres.

What to see in Asuncion

El Centro

If you're seeking out a soupçon of culture in Asuncion, downtown El Centro is an excellent place to start. It's here that you will be able to step into the city's past, thanks to its historic cobbled streets and old buildings with their low balconies. There is very much a 19th-century feel, making it a joy to explore.

Palacio de Lopez

A must-see, the Palacio de Lopez (which is also known as the Palacio del Gobierno) is one of the city's most important sights. Unfortunately, it is only open to the public on national holidays, but it is still very much worth a visit. The view from the outside is immensely impressive, with this vast white government palace featuring attractive verandahs and grand staircases.

Plaza de los Heroes

Asuncion has a host of lively plazas, but if you only visit one, make it the Plaza de los Heroes. Lying at the heart of the city, it is a wonderful place for a spot of people watching – expect to see everything from locals socialising to displays of artisan goods.

Another thing not to miss at Plaza de los Heroes is the Panteon de los Heroes, which stands as a monument to those who died in the country's wars, as well as housing the remains of Mariscal Francisco Solano Lopez, who was the president for eight years in the 19th century.

Museo del Barro

Asuncion is home to a lot of museums that are worth visiting; Museo del Barro should be at the top of your list. Displaying everything from modern art to pre-colonial Guarani ceramics, it's a great place to get a feel for the country's art history and cultural development.

Estacion Ferrocarril

Paraguay has a number of firsts to its name – among them, the first railway line in South America. This was the Asuncion-Encarnacion line, and you can see one of the very first trains to run on this route by visiting the old railway station, Estacion Ferrocarril.

Casa de la Independencia

Another first is that Paraguay was the first South American country to declare its independence. To find out all about this landmark in 19th-century history, visit the Casa de la Independencia. Once a meeting place of revolutionaries, who came here to forge plans to overthrow Spanish rule, this building is now a museum that displays relics from the revolution.

Beyond the capital

While we're not focusing on the country's natural attractions today, they do have a place in explorations of Paraguay's culture. After all, these natural areas help shape the nation's overall character, and experiencing its wilder parts will certainly give you a much greater impression of its relatively low population density than any stay in the city will.

The Chaco is a particularly good region to visit for a taste of the wild. The most striking thing here is the feeling of emptiness - the plains and forests seem to stretch on and on. It's also an interesting place because it is where its borders with Argentina and Brazil can be found, as well as the stunning Iguazu Falls – one of South America's most breathtaking natural wonders.

Cox & Kings offers tailor-made holidays to Paraguay. Please call 020 7873 5000 to speak to a Latin America tour consultant for more information.

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