You’d be hard pressed to find a city in Chile, or possibly all of South America for that matter, with as much personality as gritty Valparaíso. A city for dreamers, artists, wanderers, and any traveler with a hankering for an offbeat tune or a mesmerizing story. Once a major port town for ships seeking refuge after crossing the Magellan strait, Valparaíso saw it’s importance crumble after the 1914 creation of the Panama Canal. However, wayward souls have continued to find their way to this charismatic city and have worked to maintain Valparaíso’s reputation as a place for those once lost at sea.
Comprised of 42 hills, Valparaíso, or Valpo as it is known locally, is a tangled mess of color. The houses themselves are a mishmash of explosive hues, yet it is the graffiti that decorates nearly every street that really steals the show. Local artists have created impressive murals stirring up creativity, imagination, and a passion for photography. Local businesses are equally innovative and give voice to the progressive nature of the city. Vegan coops where communal eating is the norm, fantastic walking tours of the city directed by informative and entertaining “Wally” guides, as well as whimsical transportation options such as slides and old school funiculars. No one would ever get away with claiming that eccentric Valpo lacks character, that’s for sure!
Places to Stay:
- Angel Hostel: This great hostel is perfectly located, steps away from the cities main nightlife, it’s scenic waterfront, and it’s artsy hills. We loved it so much that we added them to our list of Best Hostels in South America!
- Hostel Cerro Alegre: Located on Valpo’s most visited hill. This is a charming place with amble common space, an inspiring commitment to local artists, and a great onsite restaurant.
Things to do:
- Join ‘Tips for Tours’ on their epic walking tour: We can’t recommend these guys enough. Charismatic, informative, and quirky guides will take you on three hour tours around their beloved city. We suggest joining a tour early on in your visit as Valpo’s sporadic layout can make it somewhat hard to navigate. These guys will not only help you get a lay of the land, they will also explain the history that has shaped Valpo’s quirky streets, and point out some of the cities best spots!
- Take a harbor boat cruise: Boats from the harbor front will take you on a quick (40 minute) spin along Valpo’s coast. A great place to spend a sunny day, take in the impressive cityscape from a new angle, and possibly peek at a couple sea lions basking nearby. Costs 3,000 pesos per person.
- Visit the home of poet Pablo Neruda: Located up in the hills is this Nobel Peace prize winning poets home. We found the house itself somewhat underwhelming, but the walk there is stunning, as is the view once you are at the top! Costs 5,000 pesos per person to enter.
- Ride a funicular: All over the city lie these quirky ways to get around. Essentially an outdoor elevator, it’s obligatory to ride at least one, saving your legs the hassle of scrambling up the hills.
- Get lost: As anyone who comes to Valpo will tell you, get ready to walk. It’s imperative to take to the hills, arbitrarily pick a direction, and get perfectly lost.
Located just an hour and a half from Chile’s capital of Santiago, buses to Valparaíso are frequent and leave from the main bus terminal every 15 minutes.
Places to Head Next:
- Santiago: Chile’s sprawling capital is full of culture, impressive gastronomy, and a buzzing nightlife. A trip here will undoubtedly help you get at the heart of this country.
- Vino del Mar: This beachside resort town is only 20 minutes away, yet feels like an entirely different world. Head here for sophistication, high-rise hotels, and a great slice of sand to sun on.
- Patagonia: Head south to Chile’s land of ice. Waddle with penguins, marvel at massive glaciers, and hike for as long as you desire.
By Tyler Protano-Goodwin