Valparaíso is situated on a bay on the Pacific coastline close to Santiago, Chile. It’s both a major tourist ship stop and a major commercial harbor for Chile.
It is an old colonial city containing many an interesting European-influenced building, but since it is a major tourist destination for locals and internationals it isn’t the cheapest destination for food and accommodation. However, since it is the seat of many a federally funded cultural activity, seeing and doing things are often free or very close to it.
Valparaíso has a unique layout because its architecture clings to the sloped sides of 48 very steep hills. These hills create spectacular views everywhere you look and the method of getting up and down the hills is worth the visit by itself. Old-fashioned elevators, called ‘acensores or funiculars’, painted yellow, white and red were built over 100 years ago and they are still used regularly today by locals. They cost about US$0.20 to ride. The photo opportunities in Valparaíso are wonderful with the brightly colored houses, the blue bay, old churches, narrow stairways, tiny alleys and great street art.
Valparaíso has a sister city Viña del Mar, with one street and completely different architecture, history and socio-economics separating the two cities. Viña is much more modern and geared to local tourism. Both cities feature lovely boardwalks, restaurants, swimming and sunbathing. Fast food chains and surfboard shops are generally on the Viña del Mar side of the bay.
A trip to Valparaíso will give great value for money with all the free attractions and a mesmerizing view of a South America you won’t see elsewhere.