Just an hour and half drive from Santiago is the oceanside port city of Valparaíso. With colourful houses and shops nestled in the hills and countless murals all over the city, it is a feast for eyes as you wander through the streets and alleys. Several free (tipping is the form of payment) walking tours in this Bohemian city are great way to kick off your visit to learn more about how this port city has evolved over the years. It’s not hard to see why Valparaíso has been declared a heritage site with it’s 16 remaining funiculars (not all are currently restored) that take you from the bottom of the city up into the many neigbourhoods.

If you have time, take a half hour bus, taxi or Uber ride along the ocean to Viña del Mar, the neighbouring city. A strikingly different city with its’ beaches, casino, and high end homes and restaurants. Unlike Valparaíso, Viña del Mar is modern and has a very open feel to it. Kick back on the beach or take a stroll along the water on the long promenade.

Free walking tours: Encompu and Tips for Tours. Both of these companies offered engaging tours where they guided us through different neighbourhoods and shared stories behind several murals.

Boat tours: Get a different view of the Valparaíso and the neighbouring Vina del Mar in the distance by taking a quick boat tour. Catch a half hour (3000 CLP) or hour tour (6000 CLP) down by the docks near Plaza Sotomayor. You will get look at the city from the bay, get up close to the navy vessels and if you are lucky, some sea life.

Getting there from Santiago: Go to Los Parajitos Metro Station and take a bus (either Pullman or Turbus). If you are flying into Santiago airport, you can get your bus tickets there and then make your way to the Metro station. When you get into the bus station in Valparaíso, visit the information centre located right at the bus station – super helpful for maps, directions and any information that you may be looking for to get the most out of your visit.

Restaurant tips: We had local recommendations for restaurants. If you want South American food in a historic restaurant, check out Cinzano (establish 1896) in the Plaza Anibal Pinto or an historic pub, Bar La Playa, located just off of Plaza Sotomayor. Just outside of the core, overlooking Valparaíso is Portofino, a lovely restaurant up on the hill with fresh seafood, pasta and a great view.

General tips:

  • Call ahead to restaurants to make sure they are open as times listed on websites, may not always be followed
  • Using Uber is a great way to get around for larger groups.
  • Want to get a Chilean phone number? As of fall 2017, you need to register your phone prior to getting a SIM card. We did this before we arrived. People have different experiences with the length of time that it takes for the paper work to get processed. Some report two or three weeks but we got lucky and heard back within a half hour. We went through telconsur but several companies process registrations. Check out this link for more information. Registration is free for the first phone. There is a fee for each additional device.

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Have a great visit!