When I decided to fly to Santiago, Chile I didn’t really have much planned. To be completely honest with you, going to Chile was just a side dish to crossing off Easter Island from my bucket list but it didn’t take too long before I realized how much of an idiot I was for thinking that. Santiago’s charm alone was enough to make me love my time there, but I was told about a coastal city known as Valparaiso that I “just had to check out.” I really didn’t have much planned for this trip, it kind of came on short notice so I really didn’t know what I was going to do. I had first heard of Valparaiso from a guest at the restaurant that I worked at, he had lived in Chile for 3 years and told me that it was a must for anyone is Santiago, once again my idiocy came through because I barely paid attention to it (to be fair, I was juggling 6 tables at the time and I forgot someone’s Grey Goose martini at the bar). Valparaiso came up again when I met some great people in my hostel and touring the city, at that point it became imperative that I go.
The next morning, I grabbed a day pack and headed to the Santiago bus station where I bought a ticket (I don’t remember the cost, but it was less than $10US) for Valparaiso, 90 minutes later I was walking down the cobbled roads of “The Jewel of the Pacific.” Valparaiso is a historic seaport that boasts some of the most beautiful public art I’ve seen in South America and a sunset that is definitely worth of all of your goofy instagram filters. These are just the types of pictures that your followers want to see, trust me. Everyone loves a sunset, so why not share it with the world. This could be made possible, particularly if you use something similar to this jarvee alternative to help grow your Instagram account. More followers mean more likes and comments, and on a sunset picture, it would be amazing. It really would. But the center of the activity here seems to be the Plaza Sotomayor, a monument built to commemorate Chilean sailors and a great place to begin your journey exploring the historic quarter. If you find yourself here with no plans, there is a great walking city tour for tips that meets here, they’re called the “Wallys” and wear striped red & white shirts (also a good way to tour Santiago). The city is built on a lot of hills with cobblestone streets, an undeniable message to those who walk around there that skipping the stairmaster and leg day at the gym were foolish decisions. For those who aren’t looking to develop muscular thighs or shredded calf muscles, there are the marvelously rickety funiculars around the city, which are these wooden transports that go to the top of the hills. You get a truly marvelous view of the city from these funiculars, and at about $300clp (like 43 cents in USD) they’re totally worth it. I, being a sucker for punishment decided to take the stairs(the colorful ones in the picture above) up to an area known as Cerro Concepion where you can find some of the cities most charming shops, cafes, and public art. My legs may have been sore for the next couple of days, but I have never been to a place in the world where the stairs were so beautifully inviting. Cerro Concepcion has some amazingly long walls, ones that were open canvas for the city’s most prolific street artists as well as a great place to find a hostel for the night. I secured lodgings at Hostal Casa Valparaiso, and was delighted by how helpful the front desk was showing me points of interest on my map (they also make a very nice pisco sour at night). Once I had settled in my dorm, I went back out to the alleyway and started taking in the marvelous colors and pictures painted on the concrete walls. It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, there are places all over the world where the graffiti and street murals are absolutely stunning, but I have yet to go to a city where the graffiti feels like it’s part of the spirit of it, as if there would be a void if someone decided to cover all of it. These are all from the same walkway:
The sun began to set, and I headed to Paseo Yugoeslavo Ex Paseo Americano, another historical walking area and point of interest for anyone looking to get an amazing view of the harbor and sunset. Across the street from the colorful stairs of Cerro Concepcion and up another long collection of steps you will find a little plaza that overlooks the historic port. If I was with a significant other or some friends this would be an ideal spot to bring some food or perhaps share a little wine while the sun painted the sky, it was remarkably quiet even though there were several groups of people there, cameras were out trying to capture the moment even though a picture could never really do it justice. Couples were swept up in the magic of it all and I thought of the colors painted in the sky while still being inspired by the colors painted in the city. From a purely practical standpoint, you don’t need to be here for too long, it’s an amazing view but there really isn’t anything to do here, but this plaza presented me with an opportunity that is common with travel. I was doing the obligatory selfie pictures on my iPhone when I noticed a guy also trying to do the same thing, it didn’t seem like either of us were happy with our pictures so I offered to take his picture and he obliged. We began to talk and eventually decided to have dinner together, his name was Javier and he was traveling for work from Colombia. As we walked toward the main street we got invited into an art gallery for some wine and finger foods, a local artist was had just began to feature there and he was having a party. We met and talked to him for awhile about his work and he led us in a direction where we could find some good restaurants to eat. We walked the city with little luck, as many places were closed and the port is considered unsafe at night. Javier & I ended up at a restaurant called Mastodonte, it looked like a restaurant you would find in “Jurassic Park” with plastic dinosaur heads on the wall with bones. If you ever find yourself here with friends, make sure you split your entree with them because the portions are MASSIVE. We were both on the brink of food coma (and less than a 1/3 done with our food) when we left to watch a musical ensemble perform at Plaza Anibal Pinto down the street, it seems to be one of the more lively parts of the city in the evening with a lot of walking traffic and music. Javier and I split a cab back up the hill and I realized something when he left, if I hadn’t offered to take his picture I may have never experienced what I did that night. It’s funny how something as small as introducing yourself can make such an impact on your experience, it’s something that I’m always reminded of when I travel. You make friends and you share experiences from your life with people who you would never meet otherwise. I believe it creates a bond that changes you, even if it is from someone that you may only spend a couple minutes with and never see again. Valparaiso’s charm extends farther than it’s colors and is a must for anyone traveling to Chile, no wonder why Pablo Neruda built his house La Sebastiana here and it’s now no surprise as to why friends kept telling me to go. If you have yet to meet anyone who has been here before, allow me to be the friend that tells you that this city is “can’t miss.” I’m sure you’ll thank me for it later.