Valparaiso, Chile is hand-down the most colorful city I have ever seen. I’ve mentioned before that Chile as a whole was a pleasant surprise from its cosmopolitan capital Santiago, gorgeous Maipo Valley, vineyards, and–of course–Patagonia. While Valparaiso wasn’t originally a planned side trip from Santiago for us, I now can’t imagine going to Chile and not experiencing its mostN vibrant and eclectic city. One of my biggest pieces of travel advice to anyone going abroad is to leave your agenda somewhat open so you can adjust your trip based on the suggestions of both the locals you will meet and other travelers you will trade information with along the way. That is exactly how we discovered Valparaiso.
Built upon the hills 70 miles north of Santiago, Valparaiso has a long history as one of Latin America’s great Pacific seaport cities. Dubbed “Little San Francisco” in its heyday, the city served as an important stop along the way for ships traveling south along the Straight of Magellan, prior to the construction of the Panama Canal. It experienced a major economic downturn after a devastating earthquake and the canal’s open in the early 1900’s, but in the mid-20th century it had an about face (literally) as artists and freethinkers moved into its hills and painted the town red….and pink, and purple, and blue. The city became a hub for art and literature, and to this day one of the most visited sites is the house of famous poet Pablo Neruda. The city’s historic district is now a UNESCO World Heritage site and exploring its labyrinth-like streets and graffiti-filled alleys is the perfect way to spend an afternoon.
How to Get to There & Where to Stay
- From Santiago, take a bus from the Alameda or Parjitos bus station. A one way trip takes less than 2 hours and costs around US$10.
- We stayed at the Hotel Fauna. Amazing rooms, beautiful view, an excellent restaurant with live music at night, and in a cute, walkable neighborhood.
What to Do in Valparaiso
- Visit historic Valparaiso and have lunch along the wharf
- Visit artist and poet Pablo Neruda’s house, nestled in the hills
- Explore the hills and alleyways, and take the funicular railways to avoid a steep climb
- Take a short 15 minute bus ride north to the beach town of Vina del Mar
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