A short two hours, but worlds away, from Santiago lies a secret Chilé would like to keep to itself. No frills here – it’s dirty, dusty and there’s not much to do; which might be why many are so drawn to this little port town.
Valparaíso, which means ‘Paradise Valley’ in Spanish, is a vibrant port city on Chilé’s coast.
The city is known for its steep funiculars and colorful clifftop homes. It’s gritty but authentic, and can be described as a city with an edgy air of ‘anything goes.’
Although Santiago is more widely known,Valparaíso is more popular to some visitors due to its historic faded beauty of its chaotic cerros (hills), some of the best street art in Latin America, a maze of steep, sinuous streets, alleys and its escaleras (stairways) which are piled high with crumbling mansions.
Poets, painters and philosophers have long been drawn to Chilé’s most unusual city.
An artist named Pablo Neruda, who became completely inspired by this hard-working port town, said it best when he said: ‘Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.’
Poetry and art decorate the walls, from large scale murals to little hidden-away pieces. Graffiti plays a large part in making sections of the city very colorful and enticing – it’s as if there is a free art gallery that adds a new exhibit to its collection every day!
You can spend a few sunny days and many lost hours wondering and exploring the small cobbled streets and winding roads.
The best time to visit would be the start of spring, which, since they are in the southern hemisphere starts in October. In Valparaiso, the first few days of October are celebrated with the Mil Tambores festival, and traditional dancers, markets, free concert and street parties take over the city!
Take note though – on the last day of the festivities, it all goes a little bit crazy (picture Carnival-style) Nakedness, painted bodies, debauchery by the beach, lots of booze and crowds! Its basically Carnival Latino style!
Lastly, if you are like me, and always looking for a beach – a day-trip to Viña del Mar is definitely something you can do!
Popular with the wealthier Santiaguinos, Viña del Mar has a bit of a resort feel as well as some of the best nightlife in town. Coming here will make you feel like you are actually on a relaxing holiday away from the chaos!