Located in central Chile, just over 90 minutes from Santiago by road, is the magical port city of Valparaíso. Before the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, it enjoyed being South America’s busiest as well as one of Chile’s oldest ports, established in 1536. Declared a UNESCO Word Heritage Site in 2002, the city has seen efforts for restoration, in turn welcoming new hotels, restaurants, and bookstores, all the while retaining its distinct coastal charm.
Perched upon the many hills encircling the city’s bay and overlooking the Pacific Ocean are crowds of colorful wooden houses (each said to feature a spectacular promenade view) among a cobbled maze of streets, which sporadically give way to equally-colorful staircases. It’s between these hills and the sea where you will find the beautiful 19th century architecture of Valparaíso’s historic downtown district.
Have a taste of the local dish “chorrillana,” a hearty platter of fries, eggs and steak; experience the funiculars (cable cars) or tour the bay by small boat; spend the evening on Subida Ecuador, featuring several bars and clubs, or perhaps draw upon your own inspiration in this city where so many others–world-known scientists like Darwin, renowned artists and poets like Mauricio Rugendas and Gabriela Mistral–resided and found inspiration for their unique work. A visit to La Sebastiana, Pablo Neruda’s house, in which he created many poems about love and the sea, is surely a highlight.