Watch your step … really

Take a look at the sidewalks. See the drop from the sidewalk into the street? If you stood in the extremely super narrow street, the sidewalk would come up to your shins, depending on how tall you are.

The city planners were actually quite thoughtful for pedestrians (or donkey owners).

Fun fact: The donkeys would walk in the street … and the human would walk alongside their donkey on the elevated sidewalk as to avoid stepping in the donkey’s poop.

narrow streetnarrow street 2

More: Walking tour of Valparaiso

Once you are up in the hills, Valparaiso changes from a gray port area into a very, very colorful city. There is street art almost everywhere you look. Graffiti artists would use anything as their canvas, like this:

street art2

But if you didn’t want your home to look like the above, you would give permission to an artist to use your home as a canvas. And then you might get something like this:

street art1

Or maybe something like this:


Our guide told us that a theory on why every home was a different color was to help sailors returning home, find their own home.

Perhaps you prefer pastels?


Or bright orange? art2

Nothing was off-limits, not even the stairs:


And two of my favorite finds … (piano) stairs and (bubble) windows …


What goes up must come down

Valparaiso offers great exercise options — walking up and down the hills of the city.

There are plenty of trams transporting passengers up and down the hills.

From a construction standpoint, they are pretty incredible to look at. These photos don’t do them justice but they were built into the mountain so it’s a pretty steep ride up to the top.

Bonus: enjoying the views from the trams because you don’t need to pay close attention to walking … on steep streets with a lot of loose steps and stones.

Walking Tour of Valparaiso

A quick bus ride from Vina and I arrived in Valparaiso. Once in town, I made my way to a lovely hostel, that was more bed and breakfast than traditional hostel, at the summit of one of Valparaiso’s many hills (cerros).

I met two more travelers – Stephanie and Chris – and we chatted a bit until we realized we were hungry. Together we went to a nearby market to bring back some dinner – which, for me, was a personal-sized box of wine, cheese and crackers.

Before breakfast, I reserved my room for another night. At breakfast, I met Quinn and Joe, who, like me, had also left great jobs in NYC to travel. Over breakfast we realized we were planning to take the same walking tour. Together we headed out and it didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the city aptly nicknamed the ‘Jewel of the Pacific.’

Our free, organized walking tour started in Plaza Sotomayor in front of the Armada de Chile (Navy Building) and Monumento a Los Heroes (Heroes Monument).

Our guide started the tour with a brief history. We learned that neighboring Bolivia, now a landlocked country, once had access to the Pacific Ocean but during the War of the Pacific, Bolivia lost its access to the sea. Barricading Bolivia’s access has been detrimental to the country’s growth. This is still quite a big deal between citizens of both countries and there’s plenty online. More info can be found here and here.

Before the Panama Canal opened, Valparaiso’s port was an important stop for ships traveling around Cape Horn. Today, Valparaiso is a major seaport and shipping center in South America.

Speaking of major seaports and expansive shipping centers, our second stop: Valparaiso’s impressive port.


Adios Vina and Hola Valpo

Cara still had her Spanish classes in Santiago so her long weekend break in Vina came to an end. We had been so busy in Vina the past few days, I hadn’t had a chance to figure out what and where I was headed and I had absolutely no idea where I was going once I left the Vina hostel. Once we all said goodbye I sat down at a computer in the common area to figure out my next step.

What I knew: I had a flight from Santiago to Calama (getting me to San Pedro de Atacama where I would be meeting Alana and Courtney). The night before that flight I wanted to be in Santiago (and would meet up with Cara again) but that wasn’t for a few days so I had a big to do: figure out a plan.

As I saw it, my options were:

Valparaiso / With Cara and her friends, we had spent a few hours exploring the waterfront of Valparaiso, about a 15 minute bus ride from Vina. I could go back to Valparaiso. I had heard you either love it or hate it and I didn’t really get a chance to make my decision.

WWOOF / I had been looking at WWOOF (Worldwide Opportunities on Organic Farms) volunteer exchanges but hadn’t heard back. They don’t check email often which is why you should book months in advance. Fail on my part.

Volunteering at a winery / A contact from NYC who worked in the wine industry had been asking her contacts about volunteer opportunities but it was the low season and each time she emailed she didn’t have any good updates to share.

Santiago / I could go to Santiago early but I didn’t want to spend days in the city.

Stay in Vina / I could stay another night at this hostel but staying was too easy so this option was the least appealing.

I decided I wanted to find out for myself if I would love it or hate it and Valparaiso was my choice. 

Traveling alone gives you as many options as you want. The only person that needs to make the decision is you.

I booked a single room in a hostel/B&B with excellent reviews, wrote down the name and address and logged off.

I asked the front desk how to get there (a bus to a taxi or funicular). With a very loose plan in place (transportation AND a place to sleep for two nights), I thanked the staff and said goodbye and headed out for my next adventure.

Snowboarding with sand

Sandboarding is hugely popular in Vina del Mar. The group I was with was keen to try. After my morning, I was keen to watch.

It’s just like you think – snowboarding except with sand. There are giant dunes and the only way to get to the top is by foot making the climb up in sand a little more difficult than it seems.

Here’s the climb up:

real sandboarders

Me climbing to the top sans sandboard:


Here’s a shot of the actual sandboarders at the top:

the climb to the top

And once you get to the top, and peek over, here’s the spectacular view – well worth the (exhausting) walk up:

the view at the top

What’s a completo you ask?

One of Chile’s not-to-be-missed culinary treats is called a completo.

Wikipedia explains a completo like this:  The completo (Spanish for “complete”, “total”) is a hot dog variation eaten in Chile, usually served with ingredients such as chopped tomatoes, avocados, mayonnaise, sauerkraut, a variation of the sauce américaine, Chilean chili, green sauce and cheese. Its size can be twice of an American hot dog.

A bite or two was really all you needed, which is why three of us shared one. However, Cara’s friend, Raphael from Germany accepted the challenge:

  • chilean hotdog


There is really a hot dog buried under the cheese, tomatoes, mayonnaise, avocado mixture.

And the completo, while not my favorite, wasn’t as gross as it looks.


close up of completo