A Travellerspoint blog

A taste of Chile

Valpo is the place to be

sunny 35 °C
View Grant and Helena's world tour on Grantandhelena's travel map.

With our time in South America running out quickly, we decided to spend our last few days in Chile as our flight to Australia was leaving from Santiago on 8 March. We arrived into Valparaiso on 5 March after crossing the Andes from Mendoza. It turned out quite unexpectedly to be one of our favourite places in South America.  
Valparaiso is a beautiful coastal city, two hours north of Santiago which in 2003 was declared a UNESCO world heritage site on account of its distinctive architecture and rich trading history.  It used to be the biggest port in the whole pacific until the construction of the Panama canal. After that Valparaiso's importance quickly deteriorated and many of the wealthy tradesmen left. Today things are turning around again. Valparaiso is in fierce competition with Lima in Peru when it comes to attracting the big ships from Asia.

We spent two nights in a fantastic hostel in the historic, multi-coloured quarter of the city (the part which is the world heritage site). The place was run by a German guy who had come to study in Chile 15 years ago, returned to Germany, fallen in love with a Chilean woman and then settled in Valpo for good - looking at the beautiful building he had bought for his hostel, we could completely understand why.

On our first evening in town we got a taste of Chilean cuisine and local wine in a restaurant near the hostel - the cooking is definitely heavier and more "South American" feeling than Argentinian but very tasty and it was good to have some fish (including some delicious Mahi Mahi) after several weeks of beef-heavy diet.

6829130550_8cd7dc7511.jpg
On our way to Chilean restaurant, enjoying the Valparaiso view

On Tuesday we got a guide to show us around the town, which was an excellent way to discover Valparaiso, especially as we were the only ones in the group, allowing us to ask our guide, Andres, lots of questions. 

We started at the fish market, where hordes of sea lions and pelicans were gathered below the pier waiting for fisherman to feed them scraps of the day's catch. Whenever a bucket was thrown into the water it provoked an intense feeding frenzy. We were painfully aware that we had paid a lot of money for a nowhere near as good an experience  in Puerto Madryn.

6829146308_04431750eb.jpg
6829145860_897a581373.jpg
6975270405_5f344e14ef.jpg
6975271723_01e41e92d1.jpg
6975272743_7819761636.jpg6829147340_caec2c138e.jpg
Fish market and sea lion/pelican feeding time. It definitely feels like sea lions have it all figured out

6829148386_035054bb1f.jpg
Gift from Easter Island to Valparaiso - Easter Island falls under Valparaiso's jurisdiction

Our guide also took us around the colourful city quarters and viewpoints in the hills above the centre, which were really spectacular.  
6975273709_877b3d4db8.jpg
6829210320_d28e964f4e.jpg6975332345_cdec01dbfe.jpg6829161194_026b253628.jpg6829160706_9249bf2ce0.jpg
Spectacular buildings and scenery explains why Valpo is a UNESCO world heritage site

6829149104_f74b349f3f.jpg
You are not allowed to change that facades, hence this particular architecture!

6829159444_29348f5623.jpg
6975282315_2f8eae9bff.jpg
6829131550_e73829d121.jpg
6975255937_6bf6d27071.jpg
Valparaiso is full of colour

In the early evening we took a boat ride out from the port to see the city and neighbouring Vina del Mar from the water.  The port is filled with a mix of impressive container ships and Chilean naval vessels.  

6829158752_6febcc5196.jpg
6975283145_0b5fb34a43.jpg

6975282827_784181ffcb.jpg
Sea lions chilling this thing down

That night we enjoyed Pisco Sours with a view in a hill top bar near our hostel with a fantastic view of the bay.
6829127052_fab8056832.jpg
6975251499_dac9b70295.jpg
Pisco Sours with a view

6829160012_cb9eed1c6c.jpg
One of many lovely dogs we saw in Valpo

We spent Wednesday and Thursday in Santiago before leaving for Sydney on Thursday evening.  It's not the best city - despite a stunning setting at the foot of the Andes, it is a huge, sprawling city and constantly enveloped in smog.  A "river" of brown water running off the Andes runs through the city at this time of year, which does not add charm. However, we stayed in the lively Bella Vista  area which was full of life at night with student watering holes all around the hostel. 

6975253847_97cd7e88f5.jpg6829128280_966b9970da.jpg6975252551_0a2f658655.jpg
View from Cerro Lucia, a beautiful park in the centre of Santiago, however the view could have been even better without the smog

We also tracked down the Villa Grimaldi Parque por la Paz on the edge of town on Thursday.  This is one of the places where the Pinochet regime imprisoned, tortured and executed thousands of "enemies of the state" in the 1970s.  It was "conveniently" located close to an airport, allowing for the regime to dispose of bodies through dropping them from airplanes and helicopters out at sea. 

Although the original buildings were torn to the ground by the regime in an effort to cover its tracks, the site has been restored and an open air museum opened to explain the operation of the regime. 

6975254867_9bf403afd8.jpg6829129536_bf54b9b907.jpg
The original gate that has been sealed and never will be reopened

Although  our time in Chile was brief, it was interesting to see how different it is from Argentina (more South American looking people, different food, country seems a bit wealthier).

In the evening it was time to catch our LAN Chile flight to Sydney. South America has been absolutely fantastic and we couldn't have hoped for a better start to our trip. 

And with those words together with our imaginary South America soundtrack, we leave this amazing continent.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pey29CLID3I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Posted by Grantandhelena 12.03.2012 05:45 Archived in Chile

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUponRedditDel.icio.usIloho

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint