I had read on some travel sites that Valparaiso makes a good day trip from Santiago.
How wrong were those reviews!
Valparaiso in 3 days wasn’t nearly long enough for us to absorb the energy and atmosphere of the fascinating port city.
We arrived into Valparaiso by bus, making the 2½ hour journey from Santiago past the vineyards of the famous and picturesque Casablanca Valley.
I don’t know what gets into us sometimes, but for some reason we chose to walk from the bus station to our hotel around 2klm away. As we slowly pushed our way through the noise and chaos of the terminal we were once again thankful for our light packing: just a small wheelie bag and backpack each.
Figuring out which direction to walk was tricky as we relied on the occasionally confusing app maps.me to guide us. This is while we were tucked into a street corner trying not to stand out too much as lost tourists, encouraging touters and muggers.
Finally we headed off but our walking route took us through packed market streets where we had to not only hang on tight to our luggage but also not lose sight of each other amid the chaos.
Nothing could have prepared us for what we encountered along those streets, it was complete madness. We picked our way around and through carts full of potatoes, beans, tomatoes and pushy people.
Apparently this is why we travel to exotic locations . . . . .
At one point as we stopped to check the map a woman pointed to me and, using strong sign language, warned me about keeping my phone tucked deep into my pocket and to hang on to our stuff. Good advice, thank you market lady.
It was all pretty confronting but we made it out the other side of the masses to eerie blocks of seemingly abandoned, graffiti covered buildings. Only a smattering of people and very few cars. And us, two white (oldish) tourists with luggage rolling behind. We just soldiered on maintaining our course and eventually came across civilisation and road traffic, with a view towards city buildings.
Our hotel was situated right on the harbour, and our room looked directly to the busy wharf. If we hadn’t been so keen to get out and about exploring the town we could easily have just stayed in and watched the comings and goings of trucks, forklifts, containers and ships. Day and night, it never stopped. Brilliant.
On our street corner we passed a food vendor with the women repeatedly yelling out EMPINADA! We paused for a second, tempted by the local fare. “Waddya reckon?” we said, and then took a deep breath and bought one each.
The woman spoke enough English to say they had meat or vegetable. We went for meat, though I don’t think it would have mattered which one we chose because we got two bites in and realised what a dreadful mistake we’d made. I felt guilty throwing them in the bin because all around were homeless people and street dogs. I suspect they would have been pulled out at some point.
Valparaiso is a flat town surrounded by very steep hills, a bit like an amphitheater, and one way to reach the hills and admire the incredible views is via funicular (called ascensors by the locals).
An alternative is to trudge up the astonishingly steep streets, which is what we decided to do. It was a great decision this time because we were able to slowly take in the views as they gradually unfolded, and enjoy the street art and interesting buildings along the way.
This funicular was built in 1915, can you tell?
The usual array of trinkets and souvenirs at the top of the funicular ride.
From the top of the hill we identified a perfect spot for lunch in a precariously perched restaurant.
Having previously been recommended some local specialty dishes by our Santiago walking tour guide, we jumped right in and ordered salmon ceviche for me and baked Parmesan clams for Dave. My fish was average and Dave’s clams were way below average.
However we did a lot better with some local beers so it wasn’t a complete loss.
Of course we looked out for the “free” walking tour and booked in for the next morning. We were really excited about getting up in those back hills. I’ll post a separate story about that adventure.
Thanks for following our adventure retirement.