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Paraguay’s steamy capital and largest city, Asunción, sitting on the left bank of the Rio Paraguay, is a city of many contrasts.

Christmas shopping, Asunción, ParaguayShiny skyscrapers stand behind weather-worn colonial buildings or glitzy disco bars, and traditionally dressed women sell tereré from metal flasks outside the city’s stock exchange. Much of the city’s architecture dates from the 19th century, a time when the country was ruled by a string of charismatic but often brutal dictators, and during which the Paraguayan national identity was formed.

The city today is somewhat sprawling, although small by Latin American standards, with most of the areas of interest within easy walking distance. Expect tree-lined avenues and parks, a somewhat bizarre mixture of architectural styles, and in July and August, the pink blossom of the lapacho trees.

Visit the stunning white Presidential Palace, catch the changing of the guard at the Panteón de los Héroes, built in 1863 as an oratory for the Virgin, now a memorial to the country’s war dead, and then sip a beer in the noisy 1950s Lido bar opposite.

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