Two people exploring the world, seeking adventure & unique experiences.
We’ve hit 400 days of travel. A landmark that has far exceeded our initial plans. 15 Countries visited so far including USA, Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina. Counting 21,000 photos and videos taken and nearly a whole continent of travel by land and sea from Mexico City to Santiago.
Valparaiso is definitely a place that you should put on your list of places to visit. It lies about 1.5 hours northwest by bus from the Capital of Santiago on the coast of Chile. It is now a UNESCO world heritage site in 2003.
We arrived in the dark and didn’t really appreciate what we had stepped into. In the morning we cooked our breakfast at the hostel and chose to do a “tour for tips” city walk. Typically our travel has been skipping big cities and therefore we also have been skipping city walking tours. Some other travellers had highly recommended this tour and we weren’t disappointed.
Tour 4 tips – Walking tour – tours4tips.com
The key concept here is that you pay what you feel is a good or fair amount of money for the tour. If the guide and tour are amazing then you tip well, if it’s horrible and boring then pay little or nothing depending on how you feel. We started off near the port at Plaza Sotomayor and we were already in awe of the colours and old town feel.
We were soon given an introduction of Valparaiso along with the 25 or so other people on the tour that day. Our first stop was at the port that made this city one of the richest in Latin America in the late 1800’s as the California gold boom took hold. This was the first port of call for ships as they rounded Cape Horn and was a halfway stocking up point on its way to or from California. A lot of money was spent on buildings and a lot of sailors spent their money on sailor type activities. This includes the typical women, alcohol and partying. These days the port is still active but is not even the busiest in Chile let alone in Latin America.
The colourful buildings on the hillsides of Valparaiso never get boring to look at. There are so many colours and shapes to keep your interest.
The hills in Valparaiso sure can get steep and tiring, especially if you have a full pack on your back. Be careful in where you pick your accommodation if you don’t like walking up and down hills all day. The locals have built 15 hillside elevators called ascensores in Spanish to make it easier to travel or carry heavy things. Each has a different cost and distance it travels. As part of our walking tour we would take 2 different ascensores to get the full local experience.
The influence of the sea is even found in the architecture of the houses where local shipworkers would use their shipbuilding skills and leftover materials to construct their house.
Toby’s highlight of the trip was the included homemade alfajore from “Artesanales Alfajores”. It was pure chocolate and dulce de leche goodness.
We were soon discovering many of the local art and colour of the houses around Valparaiso in one case even as it was being created.
At the end of around 3.5 hours we were tired and our brains full of new information. Our last stop was a local restaurant where we would try the local Chicha beer that tasted almost identical to apple cider. We thanked our guide and were off with some newly made friends to search out some more street art and views of Valparaiso.
Exploring Chilean Empanadas
The first stop was to try some local Chilean Empanadas. For Australians and English, these closely resemble what we know as a pasty. The standard cost averages around 800 pesos ($1.35), so not too bad, but also not exactly cheap either. We still miss our empanadas from Salta, Argentina.
We were soon walking uphill to a road that has some scenic views of Valparaiso along with much more street art.
Graffiti art festival
The following day we went to the area where the first and only graffiti art festival was held in 2012. This is located over near where the main bus terminal is on one of the hills. It was the only one held because it got well out of hand with originally some 50 artists signing up but over 150 pieces of art being painted, including many on unauthorised wall spaces. The results were outstanding though as there are many terrific pieces of art to go and explore in such a short area.
The hike to the top of this hill rewards you again with some outstanding views of the surrounding areas of Valparaiso.
It was time for our next city of Santiago by bus (2500 pesos / $4.25ea) and 1.5 hours later arriving at the terminal. The subway system in Santiago is fast, clean and quite comprehensive. Prices change depending on the time of travel but average around 600 pesos ($1) per ride. We would stay at the outstanding Don Santiago hostel in a 4 bed dorm. The highlight of this place is that it only has space for 15 people and has a very homely type feeling to it. The other highlight is that they have Vegemite, Peanut butter and Nutella on the breakfast table for everyone to use. Rodora had been told by some other travellers about this place and the vegemite, so it was a must do stopover for us. The other bonus is the staff are amazingly friendly and helpful.
Our next stop was another walking tour with Tour 4 tips meeting at the Museo de Bellas Artes. The tour itself didn’t live up to the previous days joys in Valparaiso. Perhaps we were already bored with city tours, the content wasn’t as interesting or the guides not quite as enjoyable. The most interesting point was to hear about the military coup in 1973 and seeing the Presidential Palace (Palacio de la Moneda) where it all began. We would again end up at a bar, this time drinking a strawberry wine cocktail.
With the sun fast setting, Toby was intent on climbing the top of Cerro Santa Lucia which was just around the corner.
We would then spend half a day shopping for a tent to take south with us. After some complications pulling money from an ATM we eventually made our purchase and that evening we setup our purchase in the back patio of the hostel to ensure we had all the important pieces.
That afternoon we would also visit the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights). This was opened in 2010 and focuses on the human rights violations during the military dictatorship between 1973 and 1990.
One thing we should have done in Valparaiso because it is where it originated was eating a plate called Chorrillana. This closely resembles a Canadian Poutine and we just had to give it a try. A place only 2 blocks from the hostel called Santo Barrio gave us our first dose of fried chips, onion, chorizo, tomato, cheese and eggs. It sure was a heart attack on a plate.
Plenty more to explore. Keep following the blog and our Flickr account for updates. http://www.flickr.com/photos/toraadventure/