After being in Columbia for two months we were ready for a change of pace so we headed to Chile where our first stop was the capital of Santiago. We were in Santiago for four nights which was enough time to explore some pretty cool neighborhoods, take a walking tour of the city and catch up on laundry. We even stumbled upon a hipster bar called The Clinic that we thought would be right at home in Portland. The bar is affiliated with a political satire newspaper of the same name so the bar’s menus and posters take digs at Chilean politics. Of course, we didn’t get any of the references but I thought this poster was hilarious and wish I knew what it was all about.
If you are ever in Santiago a must see is the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos (Museum of Memory and Human Rights). The museum educates visitors about the human rights violations that occurred during the Pinochet dictatorship.
We really enjoyed our time in Santiago but as far as cities go, we much preferred the port town of Valparaíso. I get the sense that Valparaíso may be one of those towns that you either love or hate. It’s a bit dirty and there is dog poo everywhere on the sidewalks but once you get past that you realize that the city oozes with character.
Here is a snapshot of what made our time in Valparaíso so memorable:
Valparaíso is really a city of two parts, the flat part by the port and the neighborhoods in the hills. The main tourist areas are in the hills and they afford incredible views of the Pacific. After shlepping from the bus station in the flat part of town straight uphill with our backpacks we really appreciated the views from our B&B in Cerro Allegre, one of the most famous hills.
Valparaíso is famous for its ascensors, which are basically hillside railcars that carry you up from the flat part to the neighborhoods in the hills for a very small fare. Many of them were built in the late 1800s so it is pretty spectacular that these things are still running. Riding the ascensors is one of the cheapest tourist attractions you can do in Valparaíso. As you ride up you get great views of the city and it feels a little like you are in an old wooden amusement park ride because the cars are so old and creaky.
Art and Architecture
The buildings of Valparaíso are colorful and quirky. From a distance they look pretty pristine but if you get up close you can see the toll that the weather has had on these homes, mostly covered in tin, over time.
Valparaíso is incredibly artsy. You can’t go a block in the hills of Cerro Allegre or Cerro Conception without stumbling upon an art gallery. We had a great time gallery hopping but we found the street art in Valparaíso even more intriguing. There are some incredible street murals all over Valparaíso.
Our Bed and Breakfast
We stayed at a great little B&B in Cerro Allegre called Allegretto. It is run by a British/Chiliean couple who are so welcoming. When we first checked in we met Luna the cat, who apparently has already gone through her nine lives by surviving a fall from an eight story building. She followed us to our room, jumped up on the bed and made herself at home while we unpacked our stuff. Luna has a bum leg from the fall but is still spunky, agile and friendly. Allegretto is so cozy that instead of of going out at night we just hung out in the living room and worked on their massive jigsaw puzzle.
As we were soon to discover, the magic of Chile lies in its stunning landscapes; however, Santiago and Valparaíso are well worth your time if you want to break up your travels through Chile with some city life.