I arrived in Valparaíso last night and am settling in to see if it’s a place to stay for a few weeks. Chile is such a long, narrow country and Valparaíso is about in the middle.
The plan is to work my way down to the Lake and River Districts and eventually Patagonia in the far south. Valparaíso is steep and hilly. MY B&B is high in the hills in the Miraflores District and there’s a fantastic view of the port. Some of the other districts to explore include:
- Santa Domingo
Valparaíso is Chile’s third largest city with a population of about two million. In the 19th century, before the Panama Canal was built, Valparaíso was a stop-off point for ships traveling between Europe and the west coast of the United States. It’s the country’s main port and home to its naval headquarters and National Congress. Because of its historical importance, beauty, architecture, and layout, Valparaíso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003. A few of the city’s unique popular and attractions include:
- Funiculars (ascensores) that carry locals to and from neighborhoods in the hillside
- Muelle Prat (Prat Wharf) at the foot of Plaza Sotomayor, Valparaíso’s main square
- Plaza Echaurren and the Iglesia La Matriz del Salvador church
- The Aduana (Old Customs House) and Ascensor Artillería
- Paseo 21 de Mayo walkway where artists sell handicrafts
- Museo Marítimo Nacional (National Maritime Museum)
- Pablo Neruda’s three houses in Valparaíso – Neruda won the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature
Valparaíso is the only city in Chile where you can still travel by Trolleybus. The trolley route is about 5 miles long and moves between Avenue Argentina and the Aduana (Customs House). The oldest working Trolleybus in the world, #814, is still in its original condition.
In April 2014 a wind-driven wildfire burned entire neighborhoods in Valparaíso. Twelve people died, 2,000 hillside homes burned to the ground, and almost 10,000 people evacuated their homes. The disaster was called the “worst fire in the city’s history”
Feeling slightly overwhelmed at learning yet another new place :o) so I plan to take it slow. It’s great not having any strict deadlines.