Quinta Vergara Park, Vina del Mar, Chile
Language and Currency
What is Valparaiso Like?
What is the Weather Like?
Where Does the Ship Dock?
Where is the Shopping?
What is There to Buy?
What is There To Do?
Is There Anything of a “Don’t Miss Quality?
Are There Any Great Restaurants or Bars?
The official language of Chile is Spanish, but interestingly, in this area, Portuguese is the chosen language of many. The currency is the Chilean peso
A major port, Valparaiso, with a population of over 300,000, is the second largest city in Chile. It is also home to the Chilean navy. This blue collar city is a jumble of colorful clapboard houses and Victorian mansions balancing precariously on a circle of steep hills. This majestic panorama is backed by the distant snow-capped peaks of the Cordillera. Its unique scenery is matched only by its raucous nightlife, as sailors’ bars and bordellos line the winding, hilly streets. Valparaiso is a great contrast to its twin sister, Vina del Mar, as they sit side by side along the Pacific coast. Vina del Mar was founded as a weekend retreat and garden residence for the wealthy of Valparaiso and Santiago. This coastal resort with its wide tree lined streets, lush gardens, expensive hotels and restaurants, and grand casino remains today the preferred beach destination of Chileans.
Summer in Valparaiso is usually hot and sunny, with temperatures averaging between 80 - 85°F. The Humboldt Current, which runs through the ocean in this area, causes water temperatures to be unusually cold for swimming, even in the summer, but provides pleasant ocean breezes.
Cruise ships dock at Muelle Prat, which is within walking distance to town. Metered taxis are available. As this is most often a port of disembarkation (or embarkation), if transfers to the airport in Santiago have not already been made, a cab ride will cost at the very least $100.
Valparaiso is not known for its shopping, but all you need to do is travel 6 miles north to its twin sister Vina del Mar, the upscale coastal resort, and there are rows of chic shops surrounding the Casino. During the summer there is also a crafts fair that is set up along the boardwalk.
Weaving, leather goods, jewelry, paintings, ceramics and toys are all available at good prices. If you haven’t already done so, make sure you check out the lapis lazuli, the beautiful blue stone native to Chile.
If you aren’t traveling directly to Santiago, there are a number of possibilities. Obviously, just spending the day at a beautiful seaside resort and hanging out at the beach is an excellent option. If you are looking for something more, ride one of the funiculars (ascending railways), like Ascencer Artillera. The cable car will pull you uphill to Paseo 21 de Mayo, for absolutely awesome views of the city and port below.
While there you can visit the Naval Maritime Museum. Take the many stairs, walkways and streets leading up and down the hillsides on the route of Cielo Abierto Museum, an open air museum where 17 murals by some of Chile’s most notable artists are displayed. La Sebastiana is former home and now museum dedicated to Pablo Neruda. A visit to the Monte Carlo style casino in Vina del Mar is another option. Vina del Mar also affords you the opportunity to take a charming horse and carriage tour through the mansion district. The Quinta Vergara, in Vina del Mar, is one of Chile’s best botanical gardens and even has its own palace. The roads leading from Valparaiso to Santiago will take your through Chilean wine country, so plan a tour of one of the numerous wineries, or just a visit to sample and have lunch.
The twin cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar could not be more different, but other than enjoying the unique opportunity to visit such polar opposites sharing a common culture, I am not sure I could identify a “Don’t Miss”.
On my short visit to this area I did not find a restaurant or bar that I would recommend, but I am told that the views from some of the restaurants in Valparaiso are spectacular. I also have it on good authority that there are some great local bars in the area that are quite colorful. So, if you happen upon one of them on your visit, be sure to let me know, I would love the opportunity to check them out on my next trip. Valparaiso Tourism