A day trip to Valparaiso is a great thing to do if you have time whilst touring Chile. Located just over 100 km from the capital this colorful port city is an easy visit from Santiago, maybe even stay overnight to further sample the bohemian night life, Chilean cuisine and wine. There are a many wine bars, micro-breweries, chic restaurants, boutiques and designer hotels that have sprung up during the tourist renaissance that has occurred over the last 20 years or so. Cruise ships are now regular visitors to the city, making it one of the most popular stops for shore excursions on a tour around South America.
Valparaiso became a very prosperous city in the second half of the 19th century by virtue of its strategic position on the route from the Atlantic to the Pacific, thousands of Europeans moved to the city, promoting trade and commerce, and as a result the place boasts the oldest stock exchange and newspaper in Latin America. The construction of the Panama Canal dealt a huge blow to port traffic as the previouslytortuously long route around Patagonia could then be avoided, many influential people and businesses moved away and the city fell into decline.
Known as the “Jewel of the Pacific” Valparaiso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. The very unusual system of steep funicular lifts and the labyrinth of cobblestone streets and narrow alleys, with corrugated iron houses painted in many different colors, show off the rich cultural and historical wealth of the city and the lift system has now been designated one the 100 most endangered historical treasures in the world.
Walking these winding streets and riding one of the funiculars is a real experience and we suggest a stroll from the English Arch area in the modern city below the hills, along to the slightly crazy Plaza Anibal Pinto with its trams passing through, and then up the hill via Cumming Street. At the junction of Cumming and Elias you will find one of the funiculars to ride up the hill on, in this case Queen Victoria! Your hotel will give you a map so you can navigate, or if you are on a tour then your guide will be a local expert.
When Malka and I were there a few days ago the lift ride, probably 2 minutes long, cost 100 pesos (about 30 US cents) so it certainly won’t break the bank, and saves you quite a steep walk. The Queen Victoria (or one of the other lifts) will take you quickly up the hill to the picturesque streets above and you can easily spend all day wandering, taking a ridiculous amount of photos (if you are like my wife), sipping wine or beer or tucking into some of the delicious local food. There are many gift shops, some museums and a whole array of people watching opportunities.
If you can fit it into your visit to Chile, then, do it…..check out our Facebook album for some photos we took while we were there. Enjoy!