Vexed by Valparaiso

Days: 332 (23 May 2015)

Total distance travelled: 70,087.96 kilometres (43,532.89 miles)

Originally we’d planned to have some time in Valparaiso just prior to our foray out into the Pacific and Easter Island.

Additional time in San Pedro de Atacama simply meant that it wasn’t possible, so upon returning, we unwound with a couple of additional nights in the capital, before eventually making our way the couple of hours north to this port city with a UNESCO tag.

Like so many Chilean mornings (excepting our time in Easter Island), this one again began full of sunshine, and again like so many others, there was a chilly touch to the air as we arrived in Valparaiso sometime in the late morning.

Having wandered the dozen or so blocks to our hostel, we left our bags and set out to find out what made this place so special.

In truth, other than a couple of stunning buildings near the main plaza and (for a Star Wars fan like me at least) garbage can painted in the livery of R2-D2, we just couldn’t feel it.

Just a colourful trash can? (left) & The most impressive building downtown is for the Armade de Chile (right)

Just a colourful trash can? (left) & The most impressive building downtown is reserved for the Armada de Chile (right)

The place just felt tired, dirty and empty.

Don’t get us wrong, we like gritty, but this place, we were just at a loss as to what it could be that saw people fit to don this city with a UNESCO World Heritage listing…

We were feeling a little hungry, as a small snack grabbed from a local supermarket had barely made a dent on our rumblings.

Queue our first mistake for the day, as we indulged in a pretty shitty box of roasted chicken and chips (french fries), which at least made us popular with several local strays as we dined in a nearby plaza.

It wasn’t great, yet it wasn’t horrible.

In fact it wasn’t even immediate that we realised it was even an error of judgement.

Our wanderings eventually began to take us upwards, a slow course towards the heights that overlooked the lower parts of the city through which we’d already strolled.

An increase in street art over many walls certainly added to the colour, and when I say street art, I don’t mean that useless, ugly as all crap tagging stuff.

I mean some decent art.

We came across a set of brightly coloured stairs, and lured on in a manner somewhat akin to Alice plunging into a rabbit hole, we took this path for our further ascent up the hillside.

Suddenly we could hear sounds of a much nicer nature… music, voices… not to mention we were already absorbed by our now colourful surrounds.

Finally finding the heart of Valparaiso...

Finally finding the heart of Valparaiso

Suddenly we were wandering the narrow streets of what must be the historic quarter that earns this city its rave reviews.

A small market was enjoying the glorious sunshine, suddenly their were artesanal craft shops and cafe options everywhere, and it was whilst staring down some of their tarts that the aforementioned error in our judgement became apparent (we were still totally stuffed with greasy chicken and chips) when now presented with many delicious looking treats.

Calling a city such as Melbourne home, we like to think we come from a town that has a pretty impressive street art scene… this place tops anywhere I’ve personally seen, and not surprisingly you can even partake in a tour to check it out.

We didn’t partake in one ourselves, happy to just wander as we do, but by all accounts this city does have a pretty good one (I’ve popped a link down at the bottom of this page).

Colour and corrugated walls...

Colour and corrugated walls…

We continued our meandering ways, enjoying the combination of afternoon sun, the neighbourhoods undeniable charm and of course, the free art display on walls simply everywhere… well, not everywhere, many of the buildings did have their colourful, often pastel walls clean which helped show of their corrugated iron walls.

The narrow streets are a constant canvas

The narrow streets are a constant canvas

It was also the first real place which exhibited life, other than a local flea market we’d spied from the bus as we pulled into town, so we lined up some potential options for either a feed, drink or both come the evening, the best we could come up with given our still bloated bellies.

Heck, this place was so cool, there was even one place where they’d installed a slide, just in case you couldn’t be bothered taking the stairs down!

Valparaiso's historic quarter is full of charm and art in every nook and cranny

Valparaiso’s historic quarter is full of charm and art in every nook and cranny

We continued our explorations, often with the company of a beautiful if somewhat shaggy dog that adopted us as his humans for the afternoon.

Gazing often upwards at the buildings, down towards the city below and just as often out over the blue harbour and the Pacific Ocean.

Finally understanding what the residents and UNESCO saw in this place...

Finally understanding what the residents and UNESCO saw in this place…

Colour in abundance...

Colour in abundance…

We retired to our hostel for the afternoon, which we wiled away with the help of a couple of litres of wine before venturing out to pursue some of our earlier researched dinner options.

Talk about Jekyll and Hyde!

The historic quarter was now a ghost town (this was a Saturday night by the way), with many of the cool bars and restaurants we’d eyed off earlier either empty or simply closed.

A little dejected, we went back to our hostel via the supermarket where we grabbed some more wine…

Dinner? Well instead of a delicious meal overlooking the harbour, that was a packet of chips (crisps).



* The roughly 2 hour bus service from Santiago to Valparaiso cost us $4,000.00 pesos each (oddly enough, the return journey cost us $4,500.00).

* If a graffiti and street art tour is your thing, you can check them out here

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2 Responses to Vexed by Valparaiso

  1. LaVagabonde says:

    I was considering a day trip to Valparaiso, but you are not the first blogger to say it’s overrated, so…
    I’ve heard Santiago has some great street art, too.

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