When I arrived in Santiago, Chile, the sun had not yet fully risen. On the drive in from the airport, the city streets were gradually awakening from their sleep and people were beginning to stir on to their work day.
Myself included was a bit sleepy eyed, and ‘plane-y’ – how I like to describe the mess that I look like when I’ve spent a long haul on a plane with only a doze. When I reached my accommodation, I immediately dropped my bags, gave the ole hair a brushin’ and jumped on a bus to Valparaiso.
Valparaiso is a major seaport town, that divides itself in ‘Cerros’ or hills. Let’s say we were on a boat looking in into the city, what you would not see is a flat neatly organized seaport. Instead, you would greet a view of jumbled elevations of land with colorful buildings managing their presence atop these hills. It is a land of coastal hills of color and cobblestone, with a funky refreshing personality that begs you to explore its streets.
Each cerro does have its own gumption and flirty wink. As a whole, it is a loveable mess where many famous poets have gained their muse. A day in Valparaiso is best spent on foot, wandering this quilt of color, stumbling on murals and admiring the dilapidated, yet extremely charming, architecture. Take some of the historic ‘ascensores’ (essentially, cable cars) up into the different cerros for viewpoints and more meanderings. Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion especially have my heart, but everyone will find that each cerro will suit them differently.
Buses to Valparaiso from Santiago are extremely regular and it takes about an hour and half. Although I didn’t do this and it still worked out, I would plan ahead and book a ticket a day or two in advance. The bus service is excellent. Valparaiso does have long haul buses to other major cities and even into Argentina. However, if your destination is not connected to Valparaiso, a quick ride to Santiago will solve your problems since you’ll most likely be able to find your route through there!
The best way to get around is definitely by foot but because Valparaiso is split between its commercial seaport base and its many cerros that rise behind this base, so a local bus system is also helpful. There are so many buses that lead you to the base of the cerros you’re looking for, so more time came be spent meandering the mountains and less so in the less poetic city base. Taxis are quite expensive, and frankly, unnecessary, so I would stick to foot or bus.
Honestly, I’m having a hard time with this because I wanted to eat everywhere in Cerro Concepcion where I spent most of my time. It is filled with the most lovely and charming places to eat or have a nice café.
A trip to Valparaiso is an easy day trip from Santiago. However, a common two-three day trip is to visit both Valparaiso and its starkly different coastal neighbor of Vina del Mar. Vina del Mar is a manicured town that boasts a public beach and beautiful parks. While Valparaiso is the loveable hippy, Vina del Mar is its regal, pearl clutching counterpart. The metro will take you back and forth between these cities very easily!
Go! And take me with you pleeeease.