A coastal town known for its colorful murals decoratively painted on walls, sidewalks, lampposts, and anything else, Valparaiso, Chile is a charming, artsy town. My traveling companion and I decided it seemed like a geographic mix of San Diego beaches, the steep San Francisco hills, the Andalucían region of Spain, and a town in northern Israel. In addition to resembling these locales, Valparaiso also reflected the flavor of the island of Murano off the coast of Venice. There, the paint color on each house belongs to the family and when the families are joined through marriage, they mix the paint colors to make a new one. While in Valparaiso, they may not have such a long, celebrated tradition of choosing paint hues, the hillsides above the coast are similarly dotted with houses adorned by bright colors.
Home to one of Pablo Neruda’s three residences, La Sebastiana, was constructed on a hillside, with each successive floor boasting a more expansive vista of the port below (with Neruda’s office occupying the top floor with the best view). Electrically decorated with a single carousel horse in the circularly shaped living room to a colorful, fake bird floating above the dining room table, La Sebastiana also contains numerous gifts to the poet, ocean-themed maps, and much more.
Another notable tourist attraction in Valparaiso are the “asensores,” or elevators built into the hillsides that provide shortcuts across the hills. Situated sporadically around the city, a ride lasts less than 30 seconds, but offers a great view for a price of less than 50 cents or $100-300 Chilean pesos.
After exploring Valparaiso by foot, we rented bikes and rode along the coastline to the next “pueblo,” or town. This ride was characterized by beautiful scenery along a perfect, flat, protected bike path was the highlight of my trip to Chile. Cruising on two wheels along the water with the sun shining brightly, gave us the best view of the Chilean Pacific.
Not only did we encounter seals or sea lions lounging on an old cement structure near the coastline, but we also cycled past several beaches, look-out points and several fish restaurants with the daily catch fresh from the boat. We then arrived in Viña del Mar, we discovered it has a great beach pair with a bigger city, but lacks the charm of its neighboring city, Valparaiso. On our return, we took the same scenic route back to our hostel and decided that de hecho, or in fact, Valparaiso was a perfect weekend get-a-way!