A port town overlooking the Pacific, Valparaíso enchants visitors with its vibrant culture and kaleidoscopic street art.
Fondly known as the ‘Jewel of the Pacific’, and adored by poets and artists the world over (including Pablo Neruda himself); Valparaíso is a jumble of colonial mansions, labyrinthine alleyways and spindly staircases, all weaving their way up around the cerros (hills) that teeter over the ocean. Just a two-hour drive from Santiago, Valparaíso is a popular destination for those keen to discover its eye-popping street art and bustling café scene; while Viña del Mar lies further up the coast to offer visitors beachside escapes from the city.
Pablo Neruda – one of Chile’s most iconic poets – sung the praises and complexities of Valparaíso during his lifetime, and visitors today fall under the very same spell of this eclectic coastal city. Valparaíso was first and foremost a port town, which still plays an important role in the local economy today, as glimpsed in the busy docks down by the water. Venture away from the water, however, and you’ll find yourself caught in a web of brightly coloured walls, towering stairwells and hidden gems revealing an altogether more cultural side.
In and around the historic Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003), edgy cafes and art galleries emerge from street corners, rubbing shoulders with upmarket shops and old mansions that ooze faded elegance. Laidback restaurants invite you to fuel up after making the climb up and down Valparaíso’s many cerros, affording far-reaching views over the city below towards the sparkling Pacific Ocean. However, the most eye-catching of all in Valparaíso has to be the seemingly endless graffiti splayed on the walls, stairways and houses, ever-changing and ever-fascinating to behold – a true outdoor art gallery!
Then, anyone seeking a little R&R can venture north of Valparaíso to find the beaches and boulevards of Viña del Mar, a perfect respite from the city with its many open spaces and verdant parks; lending it the title of ‘Garden City’.
Tour of Viña Del Mar and Valparaíso
Take a tour of Viña Del Mar and Valparaíso while visiting this popular stretch of Chile’s coastline. You’ll visit a handful of nearby attractions including the popular Libertad and San Martin Avenues, Reñaca Beach and the town’s famous ‘Flower Clock’, which fills a public garden near Cerro Castillo hill, as well as witnessing the artistic flair, colourful streets and hillside setting of Valparaíso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Valparaíso by night
By day, bohemian Valparaíso is a lively and colourful coastal town ideally placed for day trips and beach tours; by night however, the city really comes to life! Take a sunset tour and you will see Valparaíso’s hillside setting in an altogether different light – quite literally – as you first set off on a cocktail cruise from the main port, before heading to the clifftop Paseo 21 de Mayo lookout point for views of the town’s now twinkling cityscape.
The Aconcagua Wine Valley
Discover one of Chile’s emerging wine regions with a tour of the Aconcagua Valley. This particular part of the country benefits from a coastal breeze as well as the shelter of surrounding hills, creating a prime climate and soil type for growing particular white grapes and cool-weather red vines. As a result, the Aconcagua Valley has become popular with high-end, boutique vineyards, many of which are well worth a visit and of course, the all-important tasting sessions!