Visiting Valparaiso

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Just about an hour and a half outside of Chile’s capitol city, Valparaiso sits proudly along the Pacific coast as one of Chile’s most historically and culturally significant towns, making an excellent option for a day trip.

Prior to the creation of the Panama Canal, the port city was a crucial port of call for commercial shipping. These days it mainly caters to ships that are too large to fit through the canal, but the historic quarter of the city became a listed UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 and plays host to an explosion of colorful street art.

The city itself is built on 42 hills (or so the tourist material claims) and as a result, the narrow winding streets can take some effort to maneuver. While there are several functioning funiculars that are available for a small fee, there was a strike on the day that I was visiting, so I resigned myself to getting my steps in.

Though the whole city feels as though it’s halfway up a mountain, Mirador del Cerro Artilleria is a great place to stop for panoramic views of the city- get to counting those 42 hills.

The easiest place to begin a visit to Valparaíso is Plaza Sotomayor. The busy square is home to the Chilean Naval Headquarters, which faces out to the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique- a naval engagement in the late 1800s that resulted in the sinking of Chile’s ship. There are often markets that take place in this area, which draw in large crowds- make sure to keep an eye on your personal belongings!

While the plaza was nice enough, it was a bit boring compared to the colorful streets in and around the Concepción and Alegre Hills neighborhoods. Everywhere we looked, there was a beautiful mural, a unique boutique hotel, or a cute looking restaurant! A blank wall seemed like nothing other than an invitation for an aspiring artist. Our guide mentioned that homeowners would commonly hire an artist they liked to fill up a blank space on their property, rather than risk a piece they didn’t like on their home. This results in a proliferation of huge and well thought out murals rather than slapdash tags.

We spent some time just wandering around the streets to explore all of the beautiful art.

In addition to its street art, Valparaiso has an assortment of art galleries and local craft shops. We ducked into a silversmith’s shop and I made off with these gorgeous bronze earrings. I was still struggling my currency conversions so early into the trip, but it turned out to come to 15USD! I should have gotten a few more!

As in much of South America, the streets had their own population of stray dogs. Don’t worry- they’re all well taken care of by the community. It was difficult to resist giving them a pat as I passed by!

The huge hills sloping into the port make a really beautiful stacked effect with the houses, especially with all of the color. It reminded me a bit of the hills of San Francisco- sometimes the slope was so steep that the front door and the back door of a house could be on entirely different floors!

Don’t forget to make a stop at La Sebastiana Museo de Pablo Neruda. Once the home of the Nobel Prize Winning poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda, the residence has been converted into a museum of the man’s personal effects and excellent views of the city.

On the way home from Valparaiso, we made a pit stop at Emiliana Organic Vineyards in Casablanca Valley which is just about halfway between Valparaiso and Santiago. I made a post about it here, and I highly recommend that you book a vineyard tour if you’ve got the time- they’re doing some really interesting things with bio-dynamic agriculture!

Although it’s possible to take public transportation to Valparaiso from Santiago, I’d recommend going with a tour group. The city is becoming increasingly tourist-friendly, but there’s not all too much in terms of a frame of reference for what you’re looking at. Some of the murals mixed in the city are actually done by famous artists. Without a guide, I think I would have been a little lost- both contextually and maybe even a little bit physically!

If you’re looking for ideas for your own trip to Valparaiso, I recommend checking out one of these tour options:

27 thoughts on “Visiting Valparaiso

  1. Noted and added to my list of places to visit. How was it communicating? Do you speak Spanish? There is some great wine coming out of Chile these days. Also, your review was well written. I enjoyed reading it.

    1. Oh I’ve got very little Spanish, so there was definitely a language barrier. Luckily, most people were willing to play charades with me, and my guide helped with the rest, but a basic Spanish vocabulary would have been helpful!

      I loved the wine from Chile- check out my winery review! That Chardonnay I raved about? We bought a bottle for less than 10 USD!

      1. As far as language, you should check out Pimsleur language learning app. The monthly subscription iis $20 or so. Very easy method.

  2. I never had read any post (or anything else) about Valparaiso until now. What an interesting city, and your travelogue would be perfect for any first-time traveler. Great photos too! Thanks for sharing your insights.

    1. Thanks for giving it a try! Santiago is a direct flight from where I live, but Valparaiso was a new name for me when I visited.

      We ended up going to dodge some of the protests in the capital, and it turned out to be an excellent day trip- highly recommend it if you’re in the area!

    1. Yes! I also call it Valpo, half out of affection and half because I can never quite remember how many ‘A’s are in the name.

      I wish we tried a funicular, but all of the workers were on strike when we visited so we just had to hike up those hills 😅

  3. I visited Vapraiso in 1990 (I was in the Navy at the time). The outstanding memory I have is the trip to the vineyard. I remember the colorful scenery and the people were very friendly. It was my favorite place in South America. And we’re in a lot of places.

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