My time in Chile was supposed to be simply a layover but it turned into a visual art feast for the eyes. I couldn’t find a reasonably priced flight to take me from Buenos Aires to Lima, Peru without stopping in Chile first. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know I enjoy using my layovers in order to explore an interesting part of a country. I have visited the Pyramids of Giza on a layover through Cairo and The Eiffel Tower on a layover through Paris. With a full 2 nights in Chile, I decided that place would be Valparaiso, Chile thanks to an informative post by my fellow blogging buddy, The Wandering Redhead.
Watch my video about my time in Valparaiso, Chile here:
I didn’t know anything about this town other than the fact it was pretty and colourful. Now that I’ve visited I can tell you a bit more about this town and country through a quick PPG (Panda’s Progressive Geography) lesson.
Valparaiso is located in Chile’s central coast; it is the country’s second busiest seaport after San Antonio. The city has emerged from a long industrial decline, but today it takes pride in its industrial past and has undergone urban renewal capitalizing in its unique geographical location, inherited architecture and rediscovery of its heritage. The city of Valparaiso is located 120 kilometres northwest of the capital Santiago.
In 1536 the Europeans discovered Chile. The first to arrive was the Spanish headed by Diego de Almagro. There were already hundreds of thousands of native peoples living in Chile at the time. Soon the Spanish began to conquer Chile and soon Chile was part of the Spanish Empire.
In 1810, the Chileans decided to fight for their independence from Spain. The war that followed was called the Reconquista. Chile declared independence on February 12, 1818.
From 1815 the ports of Valparaiso served as a base for the Spanish Royal Navy’s Pacific Squadron. At around 1850, the city started taking shape, being built on landfill in the bay and expanding on its 43 hills. A modern port developed taking care of the demand for Chile’s minerals and grains. Now Valparaiso is a cultural hub for art, poetry and music. The official currency is the Chilean peso (CLP) and Chile is bordered by Argentina, Bolivia and Peru.
In this post I will outline, how to get to Valparaiso, where to stay and what to do when you’re there.
How to get there: The closest airport is Santiago International Airport (SCL). The simplest way is to head to Valparaiso from Santiago Airport via the Turbus company. Despite the chaos of an airport under construction, we followed the signs for ground transportation and eventually after some walking outside, we found the huge bus picture. The Turbus buses are quite distinctive with the large green and white bodies and the ticket booth is situated outside gate number 5 on the arrivals floor. You can also buy tickets from the driver directly.
The ticket was 600 Chilean pesos (R124/$8/31AED) each and the bus went directly to Valparaiso with no stops. The journey time was 90 minutes. I don’t know if we were just lucky to catch the direct bus or how often the bus from the Airport to Valparaiso runs. We arrived at the bus at 14:25 and the bus departed at 14:30. For alternative methods on how to travel to Valparaiso, you can read through this post.
Where to stay: As a last minute booking, we fond ourselves staying at Hotel Gervasoni simply because I was swayed by the gorgeous vintage decor in the photos I saw on booking.com. The hotel (and most ones worth staying at) was situated on a hill overlooking the port but was also in the heart of the art and restaurant district. You’ll have to take a taxi or bus to get to the hotel from the bus terminal unless you fancy a walk up some steep inclines.
What to do in Valparaiso
In some ways, Valparaiso is the perfect town to do everything and also, do nothing. What do I mean? Well let me explain. If you want to do a guided tour, there are heaps of options to choose from, from the free to the expensive. If you’re a Pablo Neruda fan, you can visit all of his favourite spots to get inspired. You can do photo walks and cooking classes. OR you can do what we did- mooch around, explore the town’s art at your own leisure, take the funicular, and sample the food on offer from the many cafes on offer. In this way, Valparaiso would be the ideal town to get away to if you wanted to write your book or practise your photography. It has a relaxed vibe with no sense of urgency… a place where you can easily forget the day of the week or even the month of the year!
Note: Valparaiso is a small town with small town timings. Many eating places were only open from 13:30 to 19:00. It can be a struggle to find open places so plan your mealtimes accordingly.
Leaving Valparaiso by bus: If you are departing Santiago straight from Valparaiso, the Turbus to the airport leaves 4 times a day. The bus terminal haas many routes and many companies offering them at different prices so if you are travelling somewhere else in Chile, do you research to find out which option is best for you.
In short, I am really glad we ventured to this little town during our short time in Chile. Valparaiso allowed us to relax, amble around and prepare for our upcoming visit to Machu Picchu. While I probably would’ve gotten bored if I had stayed for a long time, it was the perfect place to wander while waiting for my next flight.
WHERE DO I FLY INTO TO?
You can fly into Santiago International Airport (SCL) if you want to visit Valparaiso.
HOW LONG SHOULD I GO FOR?
You should stay for at least a night but I think more than 4 nights would be overkill.
SHOULD I PURCHASE A SIM CARD?
No but if you don’t speak Spanish, make sure Spanish is downloaded onto your Google Translate app so it can be used offline.
DID YOU APPLY FOR A VISA?
No. Chile is visa-free for South African passport holders.
SHOULD I CARRY U.S. DOLLARS?
Not at all. There are few places to exchange money in Valparaiso. Come prepared with Chilean pesos.
Would you consider visiting Valparaiso, Chile or have you already been? Let me know in the comments below!
How did you find it with the riots? We are due there for Christmas??
Fortunately I was there in August which was before they began.
Not riots! Protests!
Not riots! Protests!
I was in Valparaiso ten years ago and don’t remember all this art! I do remember the city reminded me of San Francisco and these murals fit in with that mindset. Maybe it means I need to visit Chile again.