Valparaiso is a city in central Chile and is the capital of the Province of Valparaiso. The city itself has approximately 300,000 inhabitants but the metropolitan area is much larger and also includes for example Vina del Mar, making it the third largest after Great Santiago and Greater Concepcion with around 850,000 people living here.
Sights and Activities
The historical quarter of Valparaiso is on the Unesco World Heritage List – It presents an excellent example of late 19th-century urban and architectural development in Latin America. The city has also preserved its interesting early industrial infrastructures, such as the numerous elevators on the steep hillsides. From the flat city centre you can take one of those up to the historical quarter. Also, Valparaiso has a natural beauty with several hills surrouding its harbour. Several important landmarks include:
- Iglesia de la Matriz
- Sotomayor Square
- The 16 remaining “Funiculars” (elevators), out of the 29 that once existed.
- The Concepcion & Alegre Historical District.
- The Bellavista hill.
- Monument to Admiral “Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane, 10th Earl Of dundoland”.
- Monument to Manuel blanco Encalada, first Chilean President.
Valparaiso has a subtropical climate. Summers last from November to March, when it’s mostly between 25 °C and 30 °C during the day and balmy nights. Winters last from June to September when it’s still mild, 10 °C to 15 °C or even more, but nights become rather chilly. This is also the wettest time of year, summers are almost completely dry.
Valparaiso doesn’t have commercial flights, the nearest option is the airport of Santiago de Chile, about 2 hours away.
To get to Valparaíso from Santiago’s airport, you will catch a bus heading to Pajaritos outside of the airport terminal. This will drop you off at the North side of “Pajaritos” a bus/subway station on the outskirts of Santiago, cross to the South side of the Subway station to get to the Bus Platform. From here, buses leave frequently for Valparaiso and other destinations; you may also take the subway into downtown Santiago. It is generally not necessary to have a bus ticket before arriving at Pajaritos. A ticket Pajaritos to/from the airport with Centropuerto bus company is CLP$1,700.
Metro Valparaiso offers commuter trains to neighbouring municipalities like Vina del Mar. It runs from 6:00am to 11:30pm, and is new, clean and fast. Adult fares range from CLP$204 to CLP$1,080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of CLP$1,200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
With a rental car you can drive easily between Santiago and Valparaiso along Ruta 68 in about an hour.
Regular buses connect Valparaiso with Santiago (1,5 hours), Vina del Mar and many other cities in the country. To Vina del Mar, you can also take a shared taxi. It’s just a short drive away.
La Serena is about 7 hours away, while travelling to Mendoza in Argentina takes about 12 hours (roads might be closed in winter).
During the summermonths many cruiseliners stop in Valparaiso’s port and there are also many cargoships who travel to and from Valparaiso. You might be lucky to get a berth on one of them or on the occasional yacht that calls in.
Colectivos are taxis painted in black with yellow roofs that run fixed routes, and are a very common mode of transport between (and within) Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and other surrounding areas. The cost of the trip, while more expensive than the bus or metro, depends upon the distance being traveled following a system of zones. There are also regular taxis that do custom rides, but they are less common and more expensive. This type of taxis often congregate in the area around the Plaza Anibal Pinto.
By Public Transport
The city micros are run by Transporte Metropolitano Valparaíso. Exact routes and fares can be found under “Empresas” on the website, and single journeys cost about CLP$250 for local routes and CLP$300 for routes running between El Plan and the hills.
The recently upgraded light-rail system, Metro Valparaíso or Merval, runs along the coast. It starts at Valparaiso’s port and heads into Viña del Mar, reaching Limache through Quilpué and Villa Alemana. The metro provides quick access to major places of interest, and is only slightly more expensive than taking public buses. Adult fares range from CLP$204 to CLP$1,080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of CLP$1,350 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
Ascensores, funiculars, ply between El Plan, or the coastal strip, with the cerros, or hillside communities. They are for the most part old and creaky, but generally reliable. There were historically a bigger number operating in the past. Check – as some close for repairs or simply dont operate any more. The fare may sometimes differ between going up and going down, but cost about CLP$300 each way. The ascensors are a unique mode of transportation in Valparaiso, and offer gorgeous views of the cityscape, port, and the Pacific Ocean. A particularly interesting one is the Polanco. This is located just off Avenida Argentina at Simpson. Rather than a funicular, it is the only vertical elevator whose entrance is at street level. You walk through a 150-metre-long tunnel where it can take you to two distinct levels, the highest of which is a tower, an excellent place to get a great view of the city, being 60 metres above the entrance.
You can easily explore much of Valparaiso on foot, but going up the historical quarter it’s a good idea to use one of the public funiculars/elevators, at least to go up, because the hills are steep.
The most traditional food for tourists in Valparaiso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. You can eat this in the traditional restaurant J Cruz. Fresh seafood is readily available in many restaurants around the city, especially around the muelle (wharf) areas, and is considered a must for any seafood lover.
Bakeries are located on nearly every block, and produce quite delicious breads that can be had warm and right out of the oven at almost any time throughout the day. They are best enjoyed smothered with Palta, which are grown en masse in Chile (palta is the Chilean and Argentinian word for what is known the anglo world like “avocado”, known in most other Spanish-speaking countries as aguacate). In addition to the many types of bread, another widely available snack to keep you settled as you walk the streets are empanadas, a flaky pastry filled with meat or cheese.
On weekends, the time to go out for a drink (Chilean people call it “salir de carrete”) starts no earlier than midnight, though somewhat earlier during the week. The pubs and clubs close at 5AM on weekends, and 4AM on weekdays.
Drinking alcohol in the streets is not allowed and 18 years is the minimum age for drinking alcohol, though enforcement of these rules is somewhat lax. If you are under 18, you may not be allowed entry into some pubs.
Chile is a major wine-producing country, and bottles of fairly tasty wines can be had for slightly more than US$1.
You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)
There are cybercafes in every major and midsize city and at all tourist destinations. Some libraries are in a program called Biblioredes, with free computers and Internet. Wifi is getting more and more common. They’re usually in metro stations, airports, malls, cafes, public buildings and several public spaces. Check for the ones that say gratis – for free. McDonald’s and Starbucks are chains which almost always have free wifi.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Chile is: 56. To make an international call from Chile, the code is: 00. Emergency phone numbers include 131 (Ambulance), 132 (Fire) and 133 (Police).
Public phones located on streets are very likely to be tampered or vandalized, so it’s better to use a phone located inside a commerce or a station. Prepaid cards for mobile phones and public phones are sold at most newspaper kiosks, supermarkets, gas stations, pharmacies and phone dealers. Mobile GSM networks are ubiquitous in all major cities and most of the territory of central and southern Chile. A basic prepaid cellular phone usually costs about 15,000 pesos, most frequently charged with 10,000 pesos worth of prepaid minutes. No ID is required to buy a prepaid phone. GSM SIM cards from ENTEL, Movistar or Claro are usually available for 5,000 pesos, but without credit, so you’ll need to buy some prepaid minutes to be able to call. Money can be charged into a cellphone from some pharmacies (Ahumada, Cruz Verde and Salco Brand) on the counter and in cash, or by using a credit card through an automated service operator, with directions in Spanish or English.
Correos de Chile is the national postal service, and although relatively slow it is reliable with post offices throughout the country. On the website you can find more information about prices to send letters, postcards and parcels, both domestically as well as internationally. Post offices are generally open Monday to Friday from 9:00am to 6:00pm and Saturday until 2:00pm, although there are sometimes longer opening hours in the bigger central post offices and shorter ones in small places. Ask around. If you want to send packages internationally, you might consider companies like DHL, TNT or UPS, which are fast, reliable and usually competitively priced as well.