Many people around the world are attracted to Chile’s capital, Santiago, for its captivating assorted panoramas and its versatility. Without a doubt Santiago offers many things to do, but only 1.5 hours drive away by car, northwest of Santiago, you will find another unique city. Valparaiso is a beautiful port city on the Pacific coast, and is also known as the “hidden gem” of Latin America.
Valparaiso is the second largest city in Chile, and boasts art, history and a stunning bohemian culture. The colorful houses built on the many hills that surround this city are viewable by many funiculars, which leaves visitors with a very unique experience.
Valparaiso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003 due to its historical significance to the country. If you are a museum nerd, art lover or prefer the fresh sea air that this coastal city can provide – we highly recommend exploring Valparaiso and its rainbow-colored neighborhoods.
Keep reading to learn more about the “Valley of Paradise”, and why we suggest why you should choose to travel here, instead of the typical tourist track that leads to Santiago.
Valparaiso is conveniently located only 120 kilometers northwest of Santiago by road. It takes about 1.5 hours by car to reach, which is known as, one of the most important seaports in the South Pacific. For this very reason you can expect good roads and a smooth ride all the way.
Valparaiso is close to two of Chile’s most popular beaches, Viña del Mar and Reñaca. Viña del Mar is the most luxurious beach resort area in the country and Reñaca is known as the “hip” beach of Chile. This is one other awesome reason to make your way to Valparaiso, as you can also catch some nice waves and soak up the Latin sun.
The history and culture
Valparaiso represents Chile’s maritime involvement, being Chile’s first main port and also a World Heritage City. When you visit the navy’s headquarters in the Naval Building, you will see the connection to Valparaiso’s history. The Museo Maritimo can be found high on the hill on Cerro Artillería on Paseo 21 de Mayo, and boasts Chile’s seafaring past. It also has a stunning view of the city from the front yard.
Some other interesting historical points you can find in the city are the churches and the cathedrals like Catedral de Valparaiso, Iglesia de San Francisco, and Iglesia de la Matriz. If you are attracted to architecture then these buildings are a definitive must-see.
Valparaiso is well-known for its many hills, and what really makes it stand out is the funiculars, or “lifts”, that take hundreds of people up the 45 hills of this unique city. The most popular hill to visit is Cerro Alegre as it gives the best views of the colorful houses, the street art and the bay below.
Other popular hills are the Cerro Barón, where you can find the Iglesia de San Francisco; Cerro Bellavista which has a stunning panoramic view of the city; Cerro Florida, which is home to Pablo Neruda La Sebastiana Museum & House; and Cerro Santo Domingo, where the Iglesia La Matriz is located.
Since Valparaiso is a coastal city, it is a great experience for foodies who love to indulge in fresh seafood. The markets sell fresh seafood, straight from the fishing boat. You are sure to slice yourself some fresh ceviche, or spice up a delicious paella if you stop by Caleta Portales and La Mercado Cardonal. Meet the local fishermen and find the catches of the day like hake, salmon, crab, clams, scallops, and more.
If you prefer to be served rather than cooking, there is a great restaurant on the second floor of La Mercado Cardonal, called La Granja restaurant. The seafood prepared here comes from the market. La Concepción, located in a refurbished mansion on Concepción Hill, is another good restaurant to try.
If you are allergic to seafood, or seafood is not really to your taste, then try some traditional Chilean must-haves that can be found all over the country. Delicious oven baked empanadas and “Pastel De Choclo” or “Corn Cakes” are just a few goodies that you can feast on.
Especially in the last few years, Valparaiso has upgraded and now boasts many boutique hotels. Many of these hotels are actually refurbished mansions, giving them an antique and artistic feel. Casa Higueras stands out, as it is located on Cerro Alegre and has great views of the city. It has 20 rooms, a beautiful garden, a swimming pool and a spa.
Another gorgeous hotel is Palacio Astoreca, which is also found on Cerro Alegre. The hotel is divided into two buildings: the palace and an older, restored house. It has 23 rooms, a restaurant, wine cellar, bar, library, and a spa. It also has a stunning view of the bay below. This hotel takes luxury to the next level!
Why choosing Kuoda makes a difference
Valparaiso is the hidden gem of Latin America, and in our opinion, offers a much richer and more authentic experience than Santiago. The Bohemian vibe is lively, hip, artsy and inspiring to everyone who sets foot there.
The rich culture shines through the architecture, style, street art, nightlife and local cuisine. If you want to vacation differently, and explore this colorful coastal city, then head to Valparaiso during your travels through Chile. But do not make this your only stop in this diverse country!
Chile also offers the wild and glacial Patagonia, the driest place on earth in the Atacama desert and the romantic valley vineyards where you can taste some of the finest wines in the world. Kuoda specializes in custom-made and luxury travel experiences. We can help you plan an itinerary that promises a memorable and smooth journey.
Our trip designers are trained to create a trip that will suit your personal needs, and give you the time to relax and enjoy your journey. Get in contact with us today to start planning your personalized trip.