Paraguay

Sights

Historic centre

At the bottom of Avenida Colón, just before it joins El Paraguayo Independiente, are the colonial façades of
La Recova
, shops selling local arts and crafts.
La Aduana
(Customs) is at this same junction. Continue along El Paraguayo to a small plaza on your left with a statue of the former dictator, Alfredo Stroessner. After his deposition, the statue was crushed and placed inside a block of concrete, only his hands and face protruding. Next to this is the
Palacio Gobierno
, built in the style of Versailles by Alan Taylor as a palace for Francisco Solano López (1860-1869). During the later years Taylor was forced to use child labour as all adult men were enlisted to fight in the Triple Alliance War. It now houses government departments. Down the side of the palace towards the river is a platform for viewing the back of the building. Directly opposite the Palace is the
Manzana de la Rivera
, nine restored buildings and a patio area dating from 1700s including
Casa Viola
with Museo Memoria de la Ciudad with historical photos and city information,
Casa Clari
, with exhibition halls and a bar, and
Casa Vertua
, the municipal library. These collectively represent the most complete set of colonial era buildings in the city.

Next to the Palace is the new
Congreso Nacional
, built in steel and glass representing a huge ship moored on the river bank and incorporating part of the old congress building. On
Plaza de la
Independencia
there is a small memorial to those who died in the struggle for democracy (also look out for statues of the frog and the dog). On the Plaza are the
Antiguo Colegio Militar
(1588) originally a Jesuit College, now home to government ministries, the
Cabildo
, now the
Centro Cultural de la República
, with temporary exhibitions, indigenous and religious art, museum of music, film and video on the top floor, and the
Catedral Metropolitana
(mid-17th century, rebuilt in the mid-19th century). The altar, decorated with Jesuit and Franciscan silver, is very beautiful. Between the river and the historical buildings is
La Chacarita
, a shanty town which is home to many poor families who have moved from the countryside in search of work. From the Plaza turn right onto Alberdi and to your right is the
post office
, a colonial building with a lovely planted courtyard; it also has public toilets and a small museum. At Alberdi and Presidente Franco is the
Teatro Municipal Ignacio Pane
, fully restored to its former Belle Époque glory and re-opened in 2007. The
Estación San Roque
, was built in 1856 with British and European help. Paraguay had the first passenger carrying railway in South America. No trains now run from the station but it has a small
museum
, featuring the old ticket office, machinery from Wolverhampton and Battersea and the first steam engine in Paraguay, the
Sapucaí
(1861).
Plaza Uruguaya
, at the nexus of Calles México, Eligio Ayala, 25 de Mayo and Antequera, with its shady trees and fountain is another spot to stop and rest. From here take Mariscal Estigarribia towards Plaza de Los Héroes. The
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes
, has some interesting 20th-century Paraguayan art and a good small collection of European paintings including works by Tintoretto and Murrillo.

Estigarribia becomes Palma at the intersection with Independencia Nacional (the names of all streets running east to west change at this point). On
Plaza de los Héroes
is the
Panteón Nacional de los Héroes
, which is based on Les Invalides in Paris, begun during the Triple Alliance War and finished in 1937. It contains the tombs of Carlos Antonio López, Mariscal Francisco Solano López, Mariscal Estigarribia, the victor of the Chaco War, an unknown child-soldier, and other national heroes. The child-soldiers honoured in the Panteón were boys aged 12-16 who fought at the battle of Acosta Ñu in the War of the Triple Alliance, 15 August 1869. Most of the boys died and nine out of 10 adult Paraguayan men were killed during the war. Although warranted, there are no tours and the sight-seeing here is strictly on your own. On the Plaza at Chile y Oliva (Plaza Libertad) there are
covered market stalls
selling traditional Paraguayan arts and crafts in wood, cotton and leather. Along Palma Maca Indian women sell colourful woven bags, beads and baskets. You may be approached by Maca men selling whistles, bows and arrows or feather headdresses. A few blocks further along Palma is the
tourist information office
; it has craft stalls for those not wishing to buy on the street. On Saturday morning, till 1200, Palma is a pedestrian area, with stalls selling arts, crafts, clothes and during the summer there is entertainment outside the tourist office. On Sunday there are stalls selling second-hand or antique items around Plaza de los Héroes. From Palma turn right at 14 de Mayo to the
Casa de la Independencia
, www.casadelaindependencia.org.py, (1772), with a historical collection; the 1811 anti-colonial revolution was plotted here. The
Iglesia de Encarnación
, partially restored after a fire in 1889 by an Italian immigrant who offered his services free of charge under the condition that he would be free to select the best materials, is a tranquil place to end your tour.

Heading out of the centre along Avenida Mariscal López

The
Museo Histórico Militar
, has articles from both the Triple Alliance and the Chaco Wars. These
include blood-stained flags from the Triple Alliance as well as clothes and personal possessions of Franciso Solano López and his Irish mistress, Eliza Lynch. The national cemetery,
Cementerio Recoleta
, resembles a miniature city with tombs in various architectural styles. It contains the tomb of Madame Lynch (ask guide to show you the location), and, separately, the tomb of her baby daughter Corrine. Eliza Lynch's home at the corner of Yegros and Mariscal Estigarribia was, until 1999, the Facultad de Derecho.

On the outskirts of Asunción is
San Lorenzo
(Km 12). Reached via Ruta 2 (Mariscal Estigarribia Highway) or take buses 12, 56, 26 and get off at central plaza with blue, 18th- century neo-Gothic cathedral. The
Museo Guido Boggiani
, is staffed by a very helpful lady who explains the exhibits, which include rare Chamacoco feather art, and history. It has a well- displayed collection of tribal items from the northern Chaco from the turn of the 20th century. The shop across the road sells crafts at good prices. There's also a small Museo Arqueológico near the church and a daily market.

Heading out of the centre along Avenida España

Museo Etnográfico Dr Andrés Barbero
, www.museobarbero.org.py, is anthropological with a good
collection of tools and weapons of the various Guaraní cultures. The Centro de Artes Visuales includes the
Museo del Barro
and the
Museo de Arte Indígena
,
 www.museodelbarro.com
. Contains
both contemporary and indigenous art, bookshop, café. Highly recommended.

Luque
, founded 1636, has an attractive central plaza with some well-preserved colonial buildings and a pedestrianized area with outdoor cafes. It is famous for the making of Paraguayan harps and guitars, and for fine filigree jewellery in silver and
gold at very good prices, many shops on the main street. Tourist information at Plaza General Aquino. There are some
fine musical instrument shops on the road to Luque along Av Aviadores del Chaco.

Other sights

The best of several parks is
Parque Carlos Antonio López
, set high to the west along Colón and, if you can find a gap in the trees, with a grand view. Good views are also offered from
Cerro de Lambaré
, 7 km south (buses 9 and 29 from Gral Díaz).

The
Jardín Botánico
(250 ha) 6 km east, on
Av Artigas y Primer Presidente, lies along the Río Paraguay, on the former estate of the López family. The gardens are well-maintained, with
signed walks, a rose garden and an 18-hole golf course. In the gardens are the former residences
of Carlos Antonio López, a one-storey typical Paraguayan country house with verandas, now housing a
Museo de Historia Natural
and a library, and of Solano López, a two-storey European-inspired mansion which is now the
Museo Indigenista
(neither in good condition).
The church of
Santísima Trinidad
(on Santísimo Sacramento, parallel to Avenida Artigas), where Carlos Antonio López was originally buried, dating from 1854 with frescoes on
t
he in
side walls, is well worth a visit. Nearby is the wreck of the
Ycuá Bolaños
supermarket
, which was destroyed by fire in August 2004, killing 396 people when the doors were ordered locked by the owners (now in jail) to prevent looting. It is now a memorial with a donation box for the families of the dead. The
Maca Indian reservation
 is north of the Botanical Gardens. The
indígenas
, who live in poor conditions, expect you to photograph them.

Around Asunción

Many villages close to Asunción can be visited on a day trip, Aregua and San Bernadino on Lago Ypacari , Altos, great views over the lake, Itauguá. Alternatively take a tour from any travel agent of the
Circuito de Oro
: destinations vary but tend to include, Itá, Yaguarón, Paraguarí, Piribebuy, Caacupé, San Bernardino, Aregua, Itauguá, 200 km on paved roads, seven hours. The route goes through the hills, no more than 650 m high, which is beautiful, with hidden waterfalls and a number of spas. Chololó, Piraretá (near Piribebuy) and Pinamar (between Piribebuy and Paraguarí) are the most developed. The
Camino Franciscano
is similar, including the historical towns of Ypané, Altos, Itá, Atyra, Yaguarón, Piribebuy, Tobatí, Caacupé, Valenzuela, Villarrica, Caazapá and San Juan Neopomuceno.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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