A colorful city set up on a clifftop surrounded on one side by the Chilean coast, that is the city of Valparaiso.
A port city, Valparaiso has long attracted artists, poets, painters, writers and curious minds to its lands. Whether it’d be for the sights or simply to draw inspiration from its artistic feel, Valparaiso seems to always bring some of the most peculiar visitors.
Located at a mere hour and a half from Chile’s capital of Santiago, Valparaiso is considered by many as Chile’s capital of culture, and with good reason.
At first, Valparaiso can appear a bit overwhelming and not as safe as it actually is. I arrived at night by bus and took a taxi to my hostel which was located midway along the hill. My first impression of Valparaiso wasn’t the best, stray dogs everywhere, some piles of garbage and much dirt in the street. “Safe” was definitely not a word I would’ve used to describe my feelings upon arrival.
But all of that changed the following morning as I ventured through the streets and narrow alleys of Valparaiso.
Much of “Valpo”, as it is known by locals, is built on hills overlooking the coast. The walks up to hill can be quite exhausting but are still a good workout. There is also the option of taking one of the many funiculars up or down the hill. At one point, there were up to 26 working funiculars in the city, however there are only between 5 and 8 of those still in operation today.
The city itself can be considered a big mural due to the street art that adorns pretty much the entire city. From houses to businesses to simple walls, much of Valparaiso is covered in a combination of street art, graffiti and drawings, some simple and some complex, all beautiful. Vintage cafés and bars, parks and viewpoints complete the most popular area of Valparaiso.
The city encourages local artists by promoting the street art culture. Many houses and businesses are happy to have their walls painted by artists and turned into a work of art. It is this art that has made Valparaiso into a popular destination for visitors and curious eyes, and the local government has taken notice, adding much money and resources to better the tourist infrastructure in the city. Today, there are many city tours offered explaining the history of the urban art adorning the city.
Viña del Mar
Located at only 20 minutes from Valpo is Viña del Mar. Although not anywhere nearly as attractive as Valparaiso, the city still attracts a fair amount of visitors every year and is worth the day tour.
Viña del Mar is home to countless resorts, parks, a botanical garden and various entertainment venues like a casino. Viña also has many shopping malls and one of the longest stretches of stores and shops in Chile.
Santiago de Chile
The capital of Chile is only about a 2 hour bus ride from Valparaiso. Buses leave from and to Santiago every hour, so there is no need to book ahead.
Santiago is like any South American capital city you could think of. Big, crowded, dirty, and expensive.
But behind all this there are a few charms to be discovered. Vineyards abound on the road between Valpo and Santiago, however most will require renting a car to get to. Vineyard Concha y Toro on the outskirts of Santiago is the easiest and most popular one, it also has a very good restaurant and wine bar.
The best viewpoint in Santiago is from Cerro San Cristobal, located in the Parque Metropolitano. On a clear day, the city and the Andes’ snow caped mountains can be seen, creating a mesmerizing image of Santiago. The top can be reached by funicular or by foot. Not far from the park is a zoo and a botanical garden which are worth a visit.
Buses to anywhere in Chile can be taken from Santiago, as well as buses crossing the Chile – Argentina border into Mendoza.
Have you been to Chile? Which city was your favorite?