Travel in Latin America
The bohemian port city of Valparaiso is the primary example of the term ‘vibrant’. The city boasts a master class of artistic finesse, both natural and man made, defined by the mass of brightly coloured houses flattered further by a blue, ocean backdrop. Valparaiso is an artists, an architects and an author’s dream workshop, a hub of cultural significance. If it isn’t the wall murals, the poetry cafes, the ascensores, the spontaneous street performances, the bustling bars, the winding old town streets, the immense sea views or the incredible seafood that tickles your fancy, well….then, um….don’t go to Valparaiso.
Valparaiso in a nutshell
Valparaiso sits on the Pacific Coast in the central region of Chile, serving as one of the country’s most essential sea ports. The city was a key stopover for ships travelling between the Atlantic and Pacific and become internationally known by sailors as ‘The Jewel of the Pacific’. The glitz and glamour may be lost on Valparaiso’s port today, with a more rugged and industrial ambience impeding any sophisticated swagger a title such as ‘Jewel of the Pacific’ may warrant.
Instead Valparaiso thrives on its bohemian culture, evident in every dusty (and sometimes smelly) corner of the city.
Getting to Valparaiso
Although Valparaiso itself doesn’t officially have an airport, Chile’s capital, Santiago, lies just over an hour away and whose airport is served extensively by domestic and international flights.
Chile’s bus network is very efficient and a quick, easy and surprisingly comfortable way to travel around the country. Valparaiso is served by a number of bus companies running from more or less every major town and city in Chile.
What to see and do in Valparaiso
In 2003 Valparaiso’s old town was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From first impressions it is understandable why. The narrow, cobbled streets wind between energetic bars and ambient restaurants, casual poetry cafes, flamboyant cemeteries and churches, whilst offering incredible views of the seafront below.
Valparaiso’s geographical arrangement consists of multiple hills, or ‘cerros’, that are most accessible via the city’s vast array of funicular railways, or ascensores, offering an exciting, if not creaky option for those troubled by the steep roads. Valparaiso’s oldest funicular is Ascensore Concepcion which was built in 1883. It offers fantastic views of the seafront culminating by the entrance to the old town overlooking the impressive Turri Clock Tower. For those art enthusiasts, the whole of Valparaiso is a free gallery; however, Valparaiso does in fact boast an official open air museum possessing some 20 murals painted on exterior surfaces.
Where to stay in Valparaiso
This depends solely on the size of your wallet with budget hostels and more upmarket hotels available around the city, with some of the best in the old town. Hostal Casa Aventura is based in the heart of the old town and has a fantastic buffet breakfast prepared by the friendly German owners. The room décor reflects the character of Valparaiso and is surprisingly cheap considering it offers so much. Hotel Da Vinci is ranked as the number one hotel in Valparaiso. With free internet, room service, a huge breakfast and a beautiful wood-burning stove in the lobby, this really is the luxurious way to stay in Valparaiso.
What to eat in Valparaiso
Being on the coast, Valparaiso is predictably rife with seafood. Many restaurants around the town offer an expansive seafood menu, especially around the wharf areas - Delicatessen Emporio cook up a great oyster dish. Valparaiso’s traditional dish is called Chorrillana. It’s basically a huge portion of fries topped with steak, onion and eggs and it’s available almost everywhere in the shopping district. Valparaiso is well worth a visit, it has the versatility to offer a relaxed weekend meandering around its beautiful winding old town or an energetic, hustle bustle of a visit absorbing the vivacious bohemian culture