Valparaiso and Viña de Mar sit just a short drive apart, although they are very different cities. Viña del Mar is known primarily as a resort town and is famous for having the better beaches, cleaner streets and high income levels. However, Pablo Neruda’s hometown of Valparaiso thrives in its character as the artistic capital of Chile. People often engage in argumentative discussion in regards to which of these oceanfront citiesm they prefer. Visitors too have strong opinions as to which they prefer. Personally, I’ll take Valparaiso over Viña del Mar any day of the week. For me, the argument for me isn’t even close. Viña del Mar, although possibly a economic class above Valparaiso, lacks the charm, character and overall relevance of the city locals know as Valpo. Valparaiso may be rough around the edges, ok, as well as in the middle, but the charm it exudes is a beautiful thing. This coastal city may be one of the most photogenic urban areas in all of South America.
Time Needed: 2-4 days
Budget: 25-40$ a day
Things to do in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
- Pablo Neruda’s House: Known as La Sebastiana the former estate of the famous poet has now basically turned into a poetic shine. Head here first thing in the morning as tours from Santiago tend to overwhelm the place in the afternoon.
- Ascensores: There are funiculars all over the city of Valparaiso, and after climbing up the hills a couple of times you’ll understand why. After the earthquake some of the ascensores are not in service. Ask ask at your hostel which ones are operation before you head out.
- Graffiti Walk: A walk just about anywhere in the city will provide you with great graffiti to spot, however, on the hill up to Cerro Concepcion you’ll find a well mapped out series of murals. As your hostel for a map that indicates the graffiti spots, and the artists.
- Museo de Bella Artes: Possibly the best way to see the cities artistic side, other than the graffiti, is by checking out this great museum.
- Kayaking: It is possible to rent a kayak in Valparaiso and go for a paddle along the shoreline in the harbour.
- Market: The central market in town is nearly as colourful as the people are. Head down here early in the morning on a Friday or a Saturday for the best action.
Viña del Mar
- Museo Palacio Roja: This is an old restored mansion that now houses exhibits displaying the history of this part of Chile.
- Botanical Gardens: Although the botanical gardens in Viña del Mar could be better manicured, they make a nice peaceful escape from the grime of these two “grungy” cities.
- Beaches: The beaches along the coast at Viña del Mar are quite attractive, and the water is decently warm thanks to its sheltered location. On the weekends in the Summer months the beaches can be packed, but are still pleasant.
Where to Eat in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
If you’re in Valparaiso head to a place called Bar Ingles which is a testiment to the strong English history in this city. The atmoshpere is very “sailor” in nature, and the food is gritty and filling. In Viña del Mar head to Avenida Valparaiso for your eating pleasures. There are a lot of decent restaurants along this stretch including Samoiedo which serves huge portions for decent prices (7-10US$ for a meal)
The nightlife is mostly centered in Valparaiso, and thrives basically any night a week. Be sure that when you go out you go with a friend or in a group as part of the bar district at night can be quite dodgy.
Where to Stay in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
I have only stayed in Valparaiso overnight, due to my absolute love for the city, and thus my allegiance. While in Valparaiso I stay at a place called Hostal Caracol which is a great place to stay with a nice vibe, good kitchen and very friendly staff. The price of a dorm is about 17US$ a night. If you decide for some reason that you’d prefer to stay in Viña del Mar there is a Che Lagarto in town, and they are always decent. I have also heard rave reviews about a hostel called Gisele & Carlos Guesthouse.
Getting out of Town
These cities aren’t only connected to the capital of Santiago (2hrs) and each other (a train or buses can get you from one to the other in about 15min), but the rest of the country. You can easily by onward trips to places like Mendoza, Argentina and northbound to La Serena.
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