The Distinct Chilean City of Valparaiso

Valparaiso has the ability to captivate the hearts of romantics. Even the great poet Pablo Neruda himself had time and time again declared his undying love for this port city. For some people, today’s Valparaiso may look unkempt, poor and dirty but the city fondly called Valpo, exudes a very spirited and artistic ambience, with its colorful buildings, sea of rooftops, imperfect mansions and narrow streets.

Situated on the Pacific coast of Central Chile, the city has one of the oldest ports in the country. Beautiful seaside views and brightly colored boats will greet you in Valparaiso. The bay that embraces sailing ships has been an inspiration for many seamen and artists. You will soon share their admiration just by leisurely walking around the esplanade and public sections like the Prat pier.

Valparaiso’s historical shell is hailed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its historical, cultural and architectural value. Some of the distinct landmarks within the shell are Sotomayor Square, the Prat Monument, the Court Building, Baburizza Palace, and the Yugoslavian Promenade on top of Mount Alegre.

One of the highlights of visiting Valparaiso is the funicular elevators, locally called ascensores, which go up the hills on incredible angles. There are a total of 22 funiculars scattered around the city, and riding them is simply an unforgettable experience. It’s almost a sin not to experience at least one ascensores ride as the fare is less than 50 US cents, and it provides the most scenic views of Valpo and the Pacific.

One of the popular funicular cars is colorfully painted Artillery Hill funicular also called the elevator. Built in the late 19th century, this funicular once ran on coal. Another prominent funicular is the Polanco, which was built in 1915 and is considered to be the most scenic in Valpo. This funicular provides access to Mount Polanco and is not attached to the hillside, but is instead, goes through a steep tunnel.

Barón Funicular holds the distinction of being the first one to run with an electric engine. Most tourists ride this funicular as it links the city to the eastern area of the Valpo’s natural amphitheater. The El Peral Funicular provides access to the World Heritage Site and the famed Yugoslavian Parade, which offers amazing views of clustered houses in the area. Other notable funicular cars include the Queen Victoria, Concepción and Cordillera.

Overall, exploring the city is not centered on visiting specific tourist spots; it’s more about walking the hilly streets and enjoying the culture and bohemian atmosphere. Valpo is known for a pulsating nightlife that will bring out the party reveler in you. The city warmly welcomes budget travelers as it is packed with affordable family run hostels called hospedajes.

Valparaiso’s love of the arts, music and festivities becomes even more apparent during their festival, held on the last week of the year. Each year, the festival features a different country and culture. Organizers invite various performing artists to represent the featured country and perform in public outdoor venues. Although it can get crowded at this time of the year, the city’s New Year fireworks display is also something worth seeing.

About Author:

Arie Boris has extensive travel industry experience, including business and sales development for commercial aviation, the International emergency assistance & travel insurance industry and a national association of travel agents. He was a contributing editor to several print and Internet travel publications, including Fieldings’ Worldwide Cruise Guide and was part of the start up team for CruiseCritic. He has written over 400 cruise ship reviews. Arie also produces and hosts Cruise Gourmet Voyages, a variety of fundraising & theme group cruises for various charitable and arts organizations. He has produced theme cruises for a variety of special interest groups including opera, comedy, spiritual retreats and fan clubs for TV shows like Dark Shadows and Dancing with the Stars!