Loma San Jerónimo is the site of a nascent project by Paraguay’s tourism ministry and local residents to promote the neighborhood, which somehow escaped the grid system that characterizes downtown Asunción, all but eliminating vehicular traffic and making its alleyways and passages perfect for kids to play and visitors to wander. Houses have been painted bright and inviting colors, cute signs put up and a weekend street market organized.

Cuzco and Rio de Janeiro need not fear: Asunción, a city of about 500,000, is not poised to become the next tourism capital of South America. But it is a fascinating window into Paraguayan history and culture. The city (and country) make for an interesting side trip from Buenos Aires or Iguazú Falls — or, though it would be a bold call, a trip of its own for travelers who prefer their destinations off-beat, unexplored, mighty friendly and shockingly inexpensive.

Photo Credit: Guarani children play soccer in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. Arcadius / Flickr