The city of hills.

Brimming with wonderful restaurants and cafés, stunning vistas, super friendly people, and a ‘things to see and do’ list that most cities would die for.

Let me introduce Valparaiso, the spectacular faded beauty of its chaotic hills, the maze of steep, sinuous streets, alleys and stairways, all piled high with crumbling mansions, a city that will remain in my heart forever.

Rene, the owner of B&B La Nona, where I was staying, is a mine of information. Upon arriving at his beautiful home, which he shares with his wife, I was given my first cup of decent coffee in weeks. Rene then talked for nearly an hour about what to see and do in Valparaiso. I had initially planned to stay here for a couple of nights, in the end I stayed much longer.

Valparaiso played a very important role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan.

Valparaiso mushroomed during this golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco” and “The Jewel of the Pacific.”

Examples of Valparaiso’s former glory include Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world, El Mercurio de Valparaiso. The opening of the Panama Canal and subsequent reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaiso resulting in the crumbling facade that you see today.

Because the slopes of the hills are so steep, many of the surrounding areas of Valparaíso are inaccessible by public transport. That is why the elevators serve the function of linking the high part of the city with the low part. The first one opened in 1883.

Bizarrely, graffiti is actively encouraged here, resulting in some amazing pieces of art work.

La Sebastiana Museum:

La Sebastiana is one of poet Pablo Neruda’s three quirky homes that have been converted into museums honoring the distinguished Nobel laureate’s work and life. Neruda is Chile’s most beloved poet, and the country’s most famous literary export. Even if you haven’t familiarized yourself with Neruda’s work, this museum is worth visiting to explore this eccentric home and view the whimsical knickknacks he relished collecting while traveling in Africa, Asia, and Europe. Neruda searched for poetry in the most mundane of objects. From a carousel horse brought from Paris to a chest of drawers wrenched from a ship, Neruda developed a collector’s zeal for what most people would view as junk. The poet called himself an “estuary sailor”; although terrified of sailing, he nevertheless was spellbound by the sea, and he fashioned his homes to resemble boats, complete with porthole windows.

Valparaiso started to envelope me with its charm from the moment I arrived. It’s the first time during my travels to date that I actually felt so very sad to be leaving a place.

Next stage: Crossing the Andes.

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About Richard Griffith

My first independent travel experience was a trip to Israel, in 1997, it was here that I caught the 'travel' bug! In 2001 I took an 8-month sabbatical and traveled around South East Asia. Since then I have managed to visit most of Eastern Europe along with India, Bangladesh, and a few other destinations in between. I love travel and I love meeting new people.
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5 Responses to The city of hills.

  1. maree says:

    What a colourful place!

  2. Doug Hendry says:

    Hey mate, I’ve just finished reading your entire blog in a couple of hits….so now I wait in anticipation of the next instalment. I love your descriptions and backed up with the pictures, you give a great impression of what you are seeing and experiencing. Glacier Perito Moreno has been my highlight so far. I love seeing vast acts of nature that put you in your place on the scheme of thing….not that you would compare, but check out YouTube for what the ocean is doing to the Cornish Coast here lately – scary stuff! South America looks like a great place to be and You always seem to find good people, though I’m sure that is testament to your character and the vibe you give off. I’m proud of you for mending that bus! You are truly an intrepid explorer…turning a small matter like a missed ferry into a wee twist in the adventure…chin up! We’ll done mate. Soak it up and enjoy the rest of your travels. I’ll endeavour to write again when I have caught up on a few more exciting episodes! NZ was awesome as you know, though I’m a bit of a wuss….I tend to stick to the beaten track and am never far away from a shower and a soft bed! Safe travels Champ!

    • Administrator says:

      Hi Doug, hope you are well? Extremely sad news about Tern Site – feel very sorry. Thanks for the positive feedback. Still waiting to hear about your visit to NZ!

  3. Kath ford says:

    High Richard reminds me of Bridgenorth.so look forward to reading your blog

    • Administrator says:

      Hi Kath, thanks for your kind words. Hope you are keeping well? When are you coming over to S America yourself?

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