When figuring out how many days I would spend in Santiago, I was advised by friends that I should also visit Valparaiso- the bohemian art town 1.5 hrs north from Santiago. So, I booked myself into a one day tour that would take me there but also stop along the way for some wine tasting and a quick stop in Vina del Mar (not long enough for a beach stop but also it was still super cold!).
Picked up at 8am in the morning in a minivan, I met my new tour group which was a mix of an array of international travellers. After driving our of the bustling city centre, we hit the dry mountains just outside of Santiago. If you had forgotten about how hilly Santiago was, this was a great reminder. The motorway takes you into tunnels that go through the mountains and on the otherside, so. much. more. greenery. The hills were now filled with vineyards. We stopped for a coffee and bathroom break (complete with llamas) before piling back into the bus bound for Vina del Mar.
When we were just outside of Vina del Mar we were able to get sweeping views at Valparaiso- houses scaling up the mountainside and not a spare patch of land to be seen. The houses in Vina del Mar were fabulous- so grand and beautifully designed. Our first stop was the flower clock- functional clock on a bed of flowers. Can’t say it was very overly exciting but pretty and colourful and the only time I have seen such a clock.
Next, we took a short drive to the local fish market and then got to see some sea lions out the back where the pier was! Gosh, they were huge and so nimble in the water. I’d never seen any before so what an experience to get so close to them!
Next, driving to Valparaiso!
Valparaiso is a hilly city and famous for its furniculars around the town which are a fabulous idea for increased mobility around town. The town is also famous for its street art and houses the Chilean legislative congress and navy. From the images I saw on Google before the trip, I couldn’t wait to be surrounded by colour and let the inner artist (or lack of) revel in the street art.
Originally a port city, Valparaiso’s coloured houses were a way for fisherman to find their own way home. At it’s roots, this town was born from hard workers
The area of Concepcion Hill is the main tourist attraction and seems to be more developed and happening compared to other parts of the town (and even Santiago). It would have been nice to have spent some time closer to the water where more of the Governmental buildings are. The down town area is more grungy and less polished but there appears to be some nice architectural buildings to see as well.
Back in Concepcion Hill, there were houses with their front facade completely painted, block colours and older buidlings that had some artistical charm. I liked the contrast between place to place which I think adds to the feeling of different puzzle pieces fitted together to make this Hill. There were some stores with local handicrafts and also sellers on the paths around the town. I was surprised that there weren’t more stores, cafes and restaurants. I became aware of the disparities in society in Chile on my trip but don’t know enough to write anything further. Perhaps this is related? Or maybe it’s left like this so as not to disturb the bohemian life?
In total, we spent about 2 hours walking around Concepcion Hill but I really would have liked to spend a day further wondering the streets and hanging somewhere looking out over the water.
We had a lovely lunch break overlooking the water. Obviously seafood was my choice! After lunch, we started our drive back to Santiago and stopped in Casablanca Valley for some wine tasting.
To be completly honest, I’m not a very big wine tasting fan. I’d been on local wine tasing tours but have never been wowed into buying any wines. This hard critic, is not easily pleased!
It was quite a long day so I was happy to be dropped back where I could quickly have some dinner and go to bed. It was nice to see so many different things but I think if I were to go back, I would actually skip Santiago and stay out on the coast instead!
Is there anything else you would recommened to do in Valparaiso? Let me know in the comments.