Fancy a detour from Santiago’s swirling-paced streets? Take a little day trip until you land in Chile’s diverse Valparaíso and on to the popular resort city of Viña del Mar.
Buses from Santiago’s Central bus station to Valparaíso run every twenty minutes.
An easy Turbus trip of around two hours from Santiago, along Ruta 68 and the picturesque Curacavi valley, lands you in the port city of Valparaíso.
Once in Valparaíso, getting around by public transport is easy using a public bus, trolleybus, funiculars, collectivos, or a private taxi. I prefer my feet as you do see so much more.
If you feel like exploring more, then from Valparaíso take a leisurely walk to relax by the sea at Viña del Mar.
Known as the port and parliament city, and surrounded by 40 historical cerros (hills), climb up any one of these and you will be greeted with 360-degree expansive views of the port, and the colourful city below.
Once serviced across the city by 26 funiculars, sadly, only 8 are still in use and they do make for interesting photo opportunities, as does the colours around the city.
Enchanting Valparaíso’s historic quarter is declared a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lined with colourful buildings from the late 19th-century, endows a great example of Latin America’s urban and architectural development during this period.
Valparaíso is a city of contrasts. Modernity fuses with a bygone era and quirky dilapidated buildings to create a conglomerate of moods and disparity when moving through these contrasts.
…although even the rundown buildings are colourful and thought-provoking.
Following several name changes during the 1800s, the plaza’s final name was after the politician and lawyer: Rafael Sotomayor.
A meeting favourite, where locals and students sit and enjoy conversations, art, playing music, and just being Chilean, the plaza’s centrepiece however, holds a stark reminder of the fallen.
Monumento a los Héroes de Iquique
Standing still whilst cars whizz chaotically around Plaza Sotomayor, is the impressive subterranean mausoleum monument centrepiece, Héroes de Iquique.
Dedicated to the fallen Chilean sailors during the Battle of Iquique and the Battle of Punta Gruesa, the monument is a fitting tribute to Chile’s naval martyrs with sailors on guard.
Armada de Chile
Declared a historic monument of Chile back in 1979, this French neoclassical building is maintained in refreshing pristine condition.
Also known as the building of the Commander in Chief of the Chilean Navy and the Intendancy Building of Valparaíso, this is not the original building that once graced this square back in 1831.
With successive winter floods and tremors, the original building’s foundations developed issues. And so, that building was replaced with this pastel-painted charming building, which was inaugurated in 1910.
Throughout Chile, political messages are demonstrated with locals taking to the streets in peaceful protests or signs draped from buildings; and Valparaíso is no different. A subtle hint that all are not happy in Chile.
A tiny glimpse into Valpo street life, sets the alluring scene around the city.
Everything is sold on the streets in the hope of making a few pesos. Typically, women sell their home-made savouries and sweets. I urge you to try some street food as this is an excellent and cheap way to experience delicious Chilean local delights, at a fraction of restaurant prices.
People-watching is a favourite pastime, especially when on the road and Valparaíso provides many memorable street scenes to capture.
Viña del Mar
Known also as the Garden City for its gardens and parks, each year, a flow of both international and national tourists arrive at Viña del Mar (Vineyard of the Sea). Mainly for a taste of the city’s hotels, resorts, assorted entertainment venues, and many beaches, as Viña is less expensive than other South American resort cities.
One of the city’s largest green areas the Quinta Vergara also holds an amphitheatre to explore.
Dating back to only the 1870s and following numerous earthquakes that destroyed most of the city’s old areas, only several 19th-century buildings still remain. Discover this elegant architecture along Avenida Libertad, Quinta Vergara, and Quillota Street.
Many high-rise buildings now carve out a new panorama along the seafront, lining its shores with apartments and hotels, to accommodate the eager tourist. Jutting proudly out of Viña’s seaside cliffs, Castillo Wulff seems slightly out-of-place for this modern seafront, although provides an example of Germanic architecture.
Native inhabitants of the area, the Changos knew the valley where Viña del Mar was founded as the Pueco Valley, and understandably, these inhabitants were dedicated to fishing.
The extensive waterfront is striking and apart from numerous surfers craving the sea, you may even be lucky enough to catch glimpses of basking sea lions.
Lazing the day away on timeworn-streaked rocks, these beautiful creatures drift in and out of the cold Pacific water, oblivious to bystanders.
Lucky enough to have watched sea lions not long ago during a half-day sail in the Argentinian Beagle Channel whilst visiting Ushuaia, I couldn’t get close to these guys today – they are wonderful to watch.
Take another walk up Cerro Castillo to catch an ever-changing perspective in the late afternoon with the fading light.
Far-removed from its home, this original Moai (Easter Island Statue) stands guard majestically outside of the Corporacion Museo de Arqueologia e Historia Francisco Fonck.
Hewn from solid volcanic rock by the Rapu Nui people on Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500, this statue stands at 2.81 metres and impressive.
Oddly placed in the middle of Avenida Peru, one can only imagine that this was an original taxi stand once – now recycled into a cleaner’s cupboard.
I would have preferred to spend a couple of nights between the two cities as one day isn’t really enough.
Back to Santiago
Return buses from the Viña del Mar bus terminal (Avenida Valparaiso 1055), run every 10 to 15 minutes.
Although if you decide to stroll back to Valparaíso and catch a bus from Terminal Rodoviário de Valparaíso (Avenida Pedro Montt), these also run every 15 minutes.