Our route from Punta Arenas at the bottom of South America up to Mexico’s Yucatan Penninsula gave us a couple extra nights in the Santiago area. Rather than stay in the capital, we decided to take the 2 hour bus ride to the coastal city of Valparaíso.
Valparaíso is a hillside maze of colorful corrugated-metal houses wrapped around a busy commercial harbor. Late 18th/early 19th century funiculars – called “ascensores” here – are scattered around the steep inclines and most are still operating: a lift costs a mere 20 cents.
One of the city’s claims to fame is as a gallery: the walls everywhere are covered in top tier street art. We wandered around for miles and found unique paintings around every corner, along with admirable views of the city and bay.
Dining in Valparaíso was a welcome respite after a month of the Patagonian white bread diet. We found excellent Thai, seafood, and – most exciting – really good falafel!
The poet Pablo Neruda – who I confess I hadn’t heard of though Elaine had – kept one of his homes in Valparaíso and we made the short tour. This guy really had life figured out! He was a lover of good food, good whiskey, naps, and his comfy lounge chair. The house isn’t huge but it’s thoughtfully laid out, has amazing views of the city and bay, and is decorated with some of Pablo’s amazing collection of maritime and other antiques. It’s like how I’d like to live someday – just without the poetry bit.
All told we were really happy that we took the extra ride out to Valparaíso. Really it deserved more time than we had – there are some nice areas just outside of the city including wineries that we didn’t get to see. If you’re in Santiago, go catch a bus – there’s one literally every thirty seconds, no excuses!