We spent 3 days in the atmospheric city of Valparaiso. This port city, with its colourful buildings tumbling down the hills towards the ocean, murals and historic funicular railways is an excellent place to spent a few days wandering around.
There are a number of bus companies operating between Santiago and Valparaiso. We went with Pullman Bus, which runs regularly throughout the day (around 36 services daily). The bus was modern, clean and punctual with comfy allocated seating. The journey takes approximately 1 hour 40 minutes and an Executive Seat costs CLP 6180 (around £6) each way.
Valparaiso is built on the side of a hill (or several hills), so sightseeing involves a fair amount of climbing. However, one of the fun parts of visiting the city is to ride on the funiculars which run up the various hills.
Where we Stayed
We love a quirky hotel. In Valparaiso, we couldn’t resist staying at WineBox; a hotel manufactured from shipping containers. It is beautifully constructed and decorated and has great views from the room and rooftop bar/restaurant. However, shipping containers aren’t very soundproof.
|Day 1||Bus to Valparaiso|
Accommodation – WineBox x 2
Dinner at WineBox
|Day 2||Ascensor Espírito Santo|
Museo a Cielo Abierto
Ascenscor el Peral
Monument to the Heroes
Train to Viña del Mar
|Day 3||Parque Cultural|
Cementerio No 2
Bus to Santiago
|2||Ascensor Espírito Santo|
|3||Museo a Cielo Abierto|
|5||Ascensor el Peral|
|9||Monument to the Heroes|
|10||Viña del Mar|
|12||Cementerio No 2|
Bus to Valparaiso
Today we head to the Pacific coast. Due to issues with bank cards being cloned, our original plan to spend a few days driving up the coast in a hire car has been changed to two nights in the port of Valparaíso. We receive a message from the hotel warning of a gang that targets hire cars, puncturing a tyre then robbing you which you change the wheel. We tell them not to worry, we were robbed before we reached the hiring of the car stage.
When we reach the bus station, the first two buses are full and we have to wait 40 minutes. It’s 500 pesos to use the station toilet so I sit with my legs crossed waiting for the bus to arrive. But eventually we board our bus for the journey to Valparaiso.
Once in Valparaíso, we walk to our hotel; WineBox. It’s built from 25 shipping containers, most of the décor is made from recycled pallets, bottles, barrels etc and it’s covered in murals. It’s very cool. It sits on a hill overlooking the city with great views both from the balcony and the rooftop bar where they serve their own wine.
Once we’re checked in, we walk up the hill (in Valparaíso it’s all about hills – hills and steps) to La Sebastiana, stopping several times along the way to admire the prolific street art.
La Sebastiana is the home of the Chilean poet Pablo Neruda.
Neruda had this house built on five levels overlooking the city and bay, designed with a nautical theme. We take an audio tour of the house, which is very interesting.
Valparaíso is a fassinating place; spreading up a series of hills overlooking the ocean; a mixture of industrial port and colonial buildings mixed with slums – and there are murals everywhere. It’s dirty and chaotic, but also alluring. Neruda sums it up in his ode to the city that he loved:
what an absurdity
a crazy port.
What a head
that you never finish
La Sebastiana is open between Wednesday and Sunday from 10 am until 6 pm. Entry costs CLP 8,000 (around £8).
Dinner at WineBox
We walk to the supermarket to get some dinner. It’s not far, but it’s all downhill. Which, of course, means it’s all uphill (including 285 steps) with the shopping. Once we have caught our breath, we spend the evening eating roast chicken and drinking Chilean wine on our balcony overlooking the city, whilst watching the sun set over the bay.
I wanted to love quirky little hotel WineBox Hotel, but to be honest, shipping containers aren’t very soundproof, so we had a restless night of traffic, barking dogs and plumbing noises. However, they redeem themselves at breakfast with fruit salad, smashed avocado, poached egg and fresh orange juice.
We spend the morning in Valparaíso with no specific plan other than a combination of murals and funicular railways.
Ascensor Espírito Santo
We walk down our hill (Cerro Florida) then take the Ascensor Espírito Santo up the next hill (Cerro Bellavista) to the Museo a Cielo Abierto.
Museo a Cielo Abierto
The ‘Museum of the Open Sky’ is an area which my guidebook says is adorned with colourful murals. Unfortunately, the museum and Lonely Planet are both in need of some updating. It’s sad to see how dilapidated the area has become, making it both ugly yet beautiful at the same time.
We descend once again and pass the Reloj Turri, an iconic 1920s clock on the side of a rather narrow building.
Ascensor el Peral
The short but steep Ascensor el Peral takes you up Cerro Alegre, home to the Palacio Baburizza.
The ascensor runs between 7 am and 11 pm and costs CLP 100.
Palacio Baburizza is an art nouveau chalet built in 1916 for a wealthy businessman. It is now an art gallery.
The Palacio is an interesting building with stained glass, wrought iron and an intriguing marble shower. The building outclasses the art it contains, but there is a great view across the city and port to the neighbouring town of Viña del Mar.
The Palace is open between Tuesday and Sunday from 10 am until 6 pm. Entry for foreigners costs CLP 4,000 (around £4).
We take the Ascensor back down to Plaza Sotomayor. This bustling plaza has souvenir stalls, street musicians etc, all watched over by the Naval building.
The imposing blue Naval Building, or Edificio Armada de Chile dominates the Plaza.
The Monument to the Heroes
Monument to the Heroes honours Chile’s naval heroes.
Viña del Mar
After a brief detour to the port, because the old man loves a boat, we take the train to Viña del Mar. The train is clean and modern, costs 60 pence each way and runs every seven minutes along the ocean front. It is a pleasant five mile journey which passes beaches lined with pelicans.
We walk along the coast of the resort town of Viña del Mar, past the Castillo Wulff, another house of a wealthy businessman. It was built in 1906 to look like a castle with a bridge to a tower overhanging the rocks beneath.
The Castillo is closed, so we have to make do with the city’s other main attraction; a floral clock.
We catch a train back to Valparaiso, buy some empanadas and a bottle of Viñamar wine to commemorate our trip and climb the 285 steps back up to our hotel. Most of me has loved our time in Valparaiso. My calves not included.
It’s our last morning in Valparaiso and we decide to walk to the Parque Cultural; according to Lonely Planet it’s the city’s No 2 attraction and, I quote; “has a little bit of everything the thinking traveler could ask for. There are excellent murals in the old exercise yards, rotating arts exhibits, live theater and dance and… other intellectually stimulating events.”
Meanwhile, back in the real world, after a steep 30 minute walk, we find ourselves in a yard surrounded by concrete and filled with stray dogs.
Cementerio No 2
We return, via a shortcut through the cemetery, which isn’t a shortcut because we get lost and end up back where we started. The rich and famous of Valparaiso are buried in Cemeteries No 1 and 2.
Then it’s up Cerro Florida’s 285 stairs for the last time. The park was a bit of an anti climax but at least we got a good workout, and got to admire plenty of street art along the way.
Bus to Santiago
We check out and walk to the bus station. This time we only have to wait two minutes for a bus and return to Santiago watching the Baywatch movie. The plot is so simple that even I can follow it with my ever so basic Spanish.
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