Until a few centuries ago, Paraguay was marked on maps as ‘Parrot Gay,’ after early Jesuit settlers came across a parrot, decided he was homosexual, named him Frank and subsequently ate him. I have been living in the capital, Asunción, for three months, combining my love of travel with an anthropological interest in indigenous culture. Unfortunately I have yet to make any flamboyant feathery friends, but the South American charm of the city’s crumbling colonial buildings and laid-back lifestyle of its inhabitants more than makes up for it.

Having lost 80 per cent of its male population during the Triple Alliance War of 1864 (don’t worry ladies, population levels have now restabilised), landlocked Paraguay has struggled to keep up with neighbouring Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia in terms of tourism. However, the past few years have seen a cultural awakening in Asunción. Championed by the younger generation, a vibrant art movement has developed alongside a progressive music scene. Contemporary bars, restaurants, shops and hotels are popping up all over the city, drawing new businesses and travellers alike. Indeed, this undiscovered South American gem will not be so for long… Get there before everyone else does.

GETTING AROUND: It’s only 30p for a bus ticket and I recommend a journey just for the experience. If you can imagine hurtling forward at ridiculous speeds in a tin can which doesn’t fully stop when you want to get on or off, you’re on the right lines. Not an adrenaline junkie? There are always plenty of taxis–they’re cheap, but make sure they use the meter.

To Stay

Urbanian Hostel

This boutique hostel has been featured in several design magazines for its Scandi-style décor. Industrial chic and minimalist, it’s all clean lines and muted colours. The scrubbed wooden bunk beds are purpose-built, allowing you to sit up on the bottom bunk draped in swathes of linen for privacy. There’s a lovely herb garden and excellent restaurant offering daily specials. This is how hostels should be. Beds from £9 per night

  • +595 21441209
  • Go to Website
  • Montevideo 1029 entre Jejuí y Manduvira

La Mision Hotel Boutique

Located in upmarket Villa Mora, this is Asunción’s most luxurious hotel. Palm trees surround the sandy-coloured building, which is gently illuminated by night and offers spectacular views of the city from its roof terrace (complete with pool and spa). Each room is individually decorated in cool whites, softened with traditional French furniture, beautifully upholstered armchairs and fresh flowers. The restaurant offers a superb international fusion menu and the service is excellent. A lesson in understated elegance. Rooms from £117 per night

  • +595 (0) 21 621 800
  • Go to Website
  • Dr. Juan Eulogio Estigarribia

Arthaus Boutique Hotel

Each room in this quirky hotel is decorated in the theme of an artist, from Kandinsky to Kahlo. It’s small, family-run and an oasis of calm amidst the bustle of the city. Relax on the pretty terrace amongst artisan objects,fluttering curtains and beautiful flowers. It has all the facilities (outdoor pool, sauna, etc.) of an upmarket hotel but remains wholly unpretentious; perfect for those after laid-back luxury. Rooms from £59 per night

Urbanian Hostel

La Mision Boutique Hotel

Arthaus Boutique Hotel

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