Chile Must Do: Valparaiso
This guest blog comes from marketing professional and Ski Portillo lover Nicole Birkhold.
The more you travel, the more you realize how huge the world is and how many more places there are to see. I think I’m pretty well traveled, but every time I leave the confines of the United States, I get a dose of awe and realize how many more places I haven’t been. It’s hard with a job and a family and responsibilities at home to make more than a couple international trips a year. So when I do get the opportunity to visit a new country, I try to maximize very single second.
Which is why, on my first trip to Chile to visit Portillo, I chose one other destination to add to my trip : Valparaiso.
“Valpo” is an historic port town that was the hub of the west coast of South America prior to the construction of the Panama Canal. Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific” due to its urban design, unique architecture and bright colors, some of the most unique and prolific street art I have ever seen decorates street building after sidewalk after hillside in Valparaiso. And hills abound in Valpo. Due to it being built on dozens of steep hillsides that overlook the ocean, a system of funiculars was designs and implemented around the city to carry goods up and down. These unique train cars dot the landscape and are worth checking out as it’s unclear how long they’ll be around.
The eclectic hillside estate of famous Chilean poet Pablo Narudo is worth the trip for any literature and poetry buff. His work is largely considered the “soul of Chile” and visiting one of his three homes is a right of passage for any Chilean and a worthwhile homage for any visitor. The English audio tour will help you understand the poet’s importance to Valparaiso and Chile and familiarize you with his work and interesting collections.
Valparaiso also plays host to some of the country’s great surf spots. Even in the winter months you’ll see folks in full-body wetsuits out in the waves. Chile is a goofy-footers paradise with nearly all left breaks. So, if you’re looking for a dual-sport trip, heading to the coast in and around Valparaiso and the nearby beach of Vina del Mar will be a good bet.
With the hills and mountains that make up so much of the Chilean landscape, hiking is an inevitability for those who are activity inclined. Parque Nacional la Campana is about an hour outside of the city but provides incredible views. Cerro la Campana, a 1,880 meter summit brings you vistas of the Andes on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.
The Hotel Cirilo Armstrong provides the perfect hip boutique hotel in a hip city. Each room features a lofted bed making for great use of the space. Some rooms include private hot tubs perfect for relaxing sore muscles after a day of sightseeing in this hilly city. Located right in the heart of old town, many sights and restaurants are within walking distance, but don’t worry about going out for breakfast, the included morning meal is delicious and will sustain your all-day activities.
For those looking for a more traditional and historical place to spend nights, look at Casa Higueras. A converted 1930s mansion, the Casa Higueras provides some posh surroundings combined with breathtaking views of the city and the Pacific Ocean. The spa and outdoor infinity pool complete the luxurious environment.
For the funkier and more budget conscious traveler, Valparaiso is rife with hostels, many of which beautifully embrace the city’s dedication to street art. The insides and outsides of many hostels — price points of which start at roughly $5.00 USD/night and can get up to about $30.00 — bring the art and the artists inside to richly color the interior walls as well as exterior. Wifi, breakfast and information about the heart and soul of Valparaiso also often come standard.
EAT + DRINK
The United States is not the only place the micro-brew scene is starting to catch on. While other South American countries haven’t boarded the brewery train, Chile has over 150 active breweries. Altamira is one of the hottest and hippest microbreweries in Valparaiso. It is in the old town and renowned for its many beers, including an Earl Grey beer that is a must try. Great food and live jazz music make this a must stop in Valpo.
For seafood with a view, try Portofino. Located halfway between Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, this beachside eatery will have you overlooking both the Pacific Ocean and sandy beaches and the bright lights of Valparaiso. Classic Chilean seafood options are fused with beloved Italian style all served up with a conscious presentation in a stunning location.
While fine dining isn’t hard to find in Valparasio, you might be just as satisfied with the delicious street food that pervades every corner. Empanadas are a traditional food of Chile and can be found nearly anywhere in the city whenever you’re hungry. Paired with a pisco sour or cerveza, lunch or dinner can be found deliciously and simply to keep you moving along with your explorations.