5 of the most fun things to do in Asunción, Paraguay

Introduction

Before visiting Asunción, we really had no idea what to expect. Based on what we saw online before arriving, we thought it might be the sort of place where there probably wasn’t much going on, and had prepared to go and just relax and enjoy the atmosphere. Actually we were totally wrong and it turns out there are loads of fun things to do in Asunción!

From what we had seen, there were a few historical sites, which actually we do definitely recommend checking out. We mention a few of them in our guide to things to do in Paraguay.

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A mural of a local guarani girl standing in some white blossom flowers
Walking into the Chacarita, you’re immediately greeted by beautiful art

Fun things to do in Asunción

1. Take a free walking tour

So we’re probably not the only travellers who’ve taken many a walking tour in our time, and our time in Asuncion was no different. We decided on day one in Asunción, it would be a great idea to take this GuruWalk free walking tour to orient ourselves in the city. It was a fantastic tour – the guide was really flexible, he worked around us (even extended the tour length for us) and we learned a lot about the city.

We love free walking tours anyway, but what was fun about this one is that it took you inside certain historical monuments that you wouldn’t have been able to enter for free otherwise, such as the Casa de la Independencia. Additionally the guides have some very unique stories about parts of the city that you can’t always find in history books!

Something we always love about these tours is the opportunity to ask questions, such as recommendations for places to eat, other things to do etc. We actually took a lot of our other recommendations in this article from our own tour, and we find they’re a great way to dig out unique and fun things to do in Asunción.

Tour duration

The tour lasted 3.5 hours, but you can extend it or cut it short as they really are very flexible

Cost

Free, but tipping is expected if you enjoyed the tour. The guides will usually advise you how much they expect in terms of a tip.

How to book the tour

Book here on GuruWalk’s website – you do need to prebook.

A view between two trees of a shanty town. The houses have corrugated iron rooves and are set up like small stalls with washing out everywhere. In the distance are the high rise buildings of Asuncion on the skyline.
Views of the Chacarita!

2. Take a Chacarita Tour

Part of the city of Asunción currently lies in a shanty town, colloquially known as The Chacarita. Though it has a bit of a reputation for being dangerous with people who don’t know it well, it actually isn’t at all! In fact, unbeknownst to us, we actually wandered right into the Chacarita on our first day in Asunción. Of course, we had passed through completely unscathed, so we were curious to know what gave it such a negative reputation otherwise!

Apparently, it relates back to some previous incidents (mainly involving drug deals) a good few years ago. However, you can now take a tour of this area with Chaca Tours to see the incredible street art the community there have created, and learn more. This tour turned out to be the best thing we did in Asunción. Chaca Tours guides are amazing and seem to know every inhabitant of the Chacarita (including the stray cats and dogs!) by name.

They told us that the Chacarita was a mini version of Asuncion itself, and had every form of person living there: every profession, every walk of life, everything you could find in the main city could be found here on a condensed scale.

The history of this part of Asuncion is complex, and we recommend starting here to learn more – we found out that one of their most influential presidents was born here and it’s one of the oldest settlements in Asuncion. For a brief insight (though this topic does deserve further reading): the Chacarita is what’s known as an informal settlement, which essentially means that it’s not exactly government controlled, and rather the houses and neighbourhoods within it have come about by means of the inhabitants.

Two pink hands, holding up the buildings of the Chacarita, which are layered in red, white and blue (the colours of the Paraguayan flag).
The story behind this mural was a school which sat on the banks of the river and flooded regularly. The Chacarita is depicted as the point of safety for the children.

Most of the buildings are erected by local people rather than any local council, almost all of the businesses within are local, and there is little-to-no government mandated infrastructure. Of course the freedom of this is appealing to the people who live there, but the downside is an unfortunate lack of resources (such as waste disposal, which is currently carried out monthly by locals themselves) and government support. Our guide, Mariah, noted to us that there was some real frustration in the area that the government’s excuse for lack of waste disposal was that ‘the streets of the Chacarita are too narrow for the garbage trucks’ but that the Coca Cola trucks (the same size) could fit easily.

Of course not being inhabitants of the area ourselves, it was very hard for us to comment, so we simply share what we were told, but what impressed us most was the spirit of the people there, and the way they have chosen to redeem their reputation: namely, through art. It’s tough to know when this first started, but some time ago, the younger generation began to tire of their home being known as a dangerous place and took it upon themselves to make it a more attractive and interesting place to visit through street art.

Every corner of the Chacarita is adorned with impressive and intriguing wall murals, many of which had well-known stories which Mariah shared with us on the walking tour. We felt we imbibed more culture, learned more (informal) history and saw more beauty in these streets than at any other time while we were visiting Paraguay. The street art is beyond shadow of a doubt some of the most beautiful we’ve seen in South America, so this alone makes it worth the visit, but what really intrigued us was the sense of community, and culture that we were able to experience from a different perspective.

Tour duration

The tour lasted 3 hours, but you can extend it or cut it short as they really are very flexible

Cost

100,000 Guarani per person (roughly £10/$15). Tipping is not expected but is well-received

How to book the tour

+595 986 316 848 – message Mariah. She speaks English, Spanish and Guarani

Or you can contact Chaca Tours through Instagram in English or Spanish

Coming soon:

Through chatting with Mariah, and her boss Christian, we learned that Chaca Tours has great plans to expand their tour to make this an even more awesome, well-rounded experience. The main plan involves creating a street food tour of the Chacarita (which we are genuinely so saddened to have missed out on, because the street food there looked amazing), which will culminate in a restaurant at the end, built into the old abandoned train carriages. The tour ends at the old railway station, with some fascinating abandoned steam trains. The idea to convert and use these abandoned vehicles is so appealing to us and seems like a fantastic add-on to this already fascinating tour!

Mariah, a Guarani guide, is standing leaning against a fence. Behind here is a mural of a cat playing a banjo.
Mariah, our guide

3. Go to a football game

We did see this recommended in a few other guides before we went, but we didn’t see anywhere how to do it, and the information was very confusing. Well actually, it’s pretty easy to do and it’s an absolutely unmissable experience in Asunción.

A football game is a must in South America, and Paraguay is a great place to do it, since it’s generally very good value for money, and easy to get a ticket. The five teams based in Asuncion are:

  • Club Olimpia
  • Akshat Mehrish Club Cerro Porteno
  • Club Guarani
  • Club Libertad
  • Club Nacional

If you Google the names of these teams, you should find the match schedule quite easily with the name of the stadium where they’re playing. We do suggest researching this quite far in advance, especially if it’s important to you to make a match, just to be sure you are in Asunción on the right day to see a match.

In terms of the tickets, we found the easier way to be to ask our tour guides, either for the walking tour or the Chacarita tour, who both seemed to know exactly where to get the tickets and at a great price. We did not find anywhere to buy the tickets online, so we believe it needs to be done in person.

When we say the guides knew every cat, we were not kidding!

4. Mountain in Lambare and the Paraguay River Tour

This is an awesome tour offered by GetYourGuide which presents the opportunity to explore a totally unique side of Asunción. Lambare is an island in the middle of the Paraguay River, and the mountain on the island directly overlooks Argentina, as well as the city of Asunción.

Cerro Lambare (or the Lambare mountain) is a relatively easy hike, but it will take you around 45 minutes to climb up, so you will need to stock up on snacks and water, so you have plenty to keep you going. There is a monument at the top, which makes it pretty iconic in terms of viewpoints.

(Note that you do have to pay for the guide part on arrival additional to the tour. If you aren’t so bothered about the history and would just want to do the walk, you can take a bus or taxi to Cerro Lambare yourself and take the ascent from there.)

5. Drink tereré on the beach

Tereré is a traditional Paraguayan drink, similar to maté, which is popular in the rest of South America. Tereré and maté is made differently in each country in South America, but in principal it’s the same. It’s basically a load of locally grown herbs and spices, chopped, ground and mixed together, and served steeped as a tea. We found it quite a lot sweeter in Paraguay than for example, Argentina, where we’d tried it previously.

Maté is generally served warm, whereas tereré is a cold drink, and it’s super refreshing in the heat in Paraguay. The locals serve it all along the beach on the river in Asunción in huge flasks, and others come along with their own tereré cups to buy and drink it. It’s best to bring your own cup along, and you might need a tereré straw to filter out the herbs, otherwise it’s not so pleasant to drink!

This is one of the most typical local things to do on a warm weekend day, so you really get a feel for the culture of Paraguay when you take part, plus it’s just super relaxing and a fun thing to do.

Fun day trips to take from Asunción

If you have extra time in Asunción, here are some great day and multi day trips you can take that would add a lot to your trip!

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    Written by Emma

    Emma

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