Tag Archives: chile

Valparaiso to Vina to Santiago

Valparaiso was hard to leave but after 4 nights, it tied with Mendoza for the longest I stayed in one place. So I was eager to get going. Valparaiso is on my list of places to return. I’m excited to see the progress this beautiful port city will make over the next few years. Here, an example of the work that’s being done to repair some of the streets, or maybe just as a warning for pedestrians…

valpo2

Between the delicious food, gorgeous views and lovely people, Valpo was a place I had easily fallen in love with. Just as you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, advice from others should be taken with a grain of salt. All I had heard, was ‘you’ll love it or hate it,’ and I am so happy to report I loved it. I understand why some may hate it, but that’s a decision you’d have to make for yourself.

Heading to the bus terminal, I realized I would soon be back in a big city – Santiago – with a full day and night there, where I would once again meet up with Cara. Then, I would fly from Santiago to Calama, on a flight I booked before I left the States. From Calama, I would transfer to San Pedro de Atacama to stay one night alone before meeting friends who were coming to Chile on vacation from the States. After those three nights, where we’d be staying in an actual hotel (!), I would be on my own (and back in hostels) again. But a few nights with familiar faces was exciting before I would head into less developed areas of the continent, with less of a plan than I had now.

Here’s the view on my ride from Vina to Santiago. I sat in the front row on the upper level of the bus and, as you can see, the view was pretty incredible.


Exploring More Valparaiso

After returning to the city from our winery tour, the three of us parted ways. I quickly dropped off my bags at my new hostel and left to take in more of the city.

I headed to the port and took a boat ride. While on the boat, I met a family who took me in as one of their own and we continued on a tour of Pablo Neruda’s home.

The boat ride was educational and shared the story of the importance of Chile’s history as a crucial South American port city.

Pablo Neruda still is one of Chile’s favorite people. He was a poet and a bit eccentric as you can see when you walk through his home. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the interior but he loved the water so his home was built as if he was on a boat so out every window it looked like he was sailing.

I mentioned that there was another traveler who moved from our first hostel to the second. Later that evening, she and I met up at the hostel and decided to have Valentine’s Day dinner together in Valpo. No photos but our ceviche dishes were absolutely amazing.


Off to the Casablanca Valley!

Off to the wineries! Chile has a long history of wine making, and has several regions. In Valparaiso, I was not far from one of them.

Not only were the wines spectacular, but the views were too.

Tour, tasting and lunch at one winery ran a whopping $36. And you can see, it was a stunning winery.

 

 

 


Valparaiso, you’d love it or hate it. Spoiler alert: I loved it.

As I mentioned, I had been warned you’d either love Valparaiso or hate it. Well, Valpo, as it’s lovingly called, was a total win for me. After two nights I loved it and decided to stay longer.

Except when I went to extend my reservation for another two nights at breakfast the next morning, I was told this hostel was booked. So breakfast became quite productive for planning my day and my sleeping arrangements.

First,  I had to make a plan to change hostels since the one I was currently in was booked. It happened that there was another traveler who wanted to stay longer as well so one owner of the hostel made a call and two of us were going to transfer to another hostel.

Over breakfast, all the travelers at the table shared our plans for the day. Mine was not really a plan but I wish that I was keen to visit the wine region. In conversation, I found two other travelers who were hoping to do the same.

And, in nearly one fell swoop, I had one owner calling to find two of us another hostel and the other owner was about to plan the day for the three of us.

Three of us asked the other owner to book us on a tour. He told us that’s not how it works; yet, after making just one phone call, he confirmed that we’d be driven out to one of Chile’s most accessible wine regions, the Casablanca Valley, later that morning.

Planning? Sometimes it’s just for the birds!

 


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:

art4

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?

art6

Or bright orange? art2

Nothing was off-limits, not even the stairs:

art3

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

art5art


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:

sandboarding

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