Valdivia Chile and Sea Lions

Valdivia, Chile
Valdivia Chile

I arrived early this morning in Valdivia, a beautiful historic city in southern Chile. The area is known as the Region de Los Rios. Valdivia’s culture is influenced by a mixture of Mapuche, Spanish, and German heritage.

Valdivia Rowers – Big Magazine
Valdivia River Rowers – Flickr
Mapuche, Folklore, Culture

The Mapuche are fascinating, from their music to folklore and legends. Strong German influence is apparent in the local beer brewing industry and Valdivian architecture and cuisine. Many compare Chile’s Calle-Calle River to Germany’s Rhine.

Valdivia Church
Valdivia Church
Mercado Fluvial

Surprisingly, the bus from Valparaiso arrived ahead of schedule. While my B&B lodging was being prepared, I explored central Valdivia. Sunday mornings are quiet, but things picked up with the opening of the Mercado Fluvial along the river bank. The lively market has a variety of fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, and crafts made by local artists.

Central Valdivia
Central Valdivia
Sea Lions

Sea lions began invading Valdivia’s fish market some time ago, when they discovered it was a great place for a free lunch. The HUGE animals – some weighing up to 2,000 pounds – became an amusement and tourist attraction. In the past, they caused havoc by taking waddling tours of downtown Valdivia. Locals built a barrier to keep them off the streets.

Fish Market
Valdivia Fish Market
Earthquakes, Rivers, Nature Reserves

A series of earthquakes and tsunamis destroyed Valdivia in the 1960s. Known as the Great Chilean Earthquake, the tremors occurred in May 1960, lasted about 10 minutes, and rated 9.5 on the moment magnitude scale. The most powerful quake ever recorded, approximately 6,000 people died and the tsunami affected southern Chile, Hawaii, Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, southeast Australia, and the Aleutian Islands!

Fishing Boats Valdivia River
Fishing Boats Valdivia River

Valdivia is known for Austral University, a top school in Chile. Austral’s outstanding science program attracts students from Santiago Universities. Another local attraction is a marshland nature reserve on the outskirts of the city at the confluence of several rivers flowing from the Andes.


German influence promoted development of Valbier, a microbrewery that produces a popular amber ale. Another favorite local beer is Kuntsmann.

Mercado Fluvial Valdivia –
Local Cuisine

Food in Valdivia is a mix of Spanish, German, and other European influences together with cuisine found only in Southern Chile. It’s a beautiful place, and I’ll stay for a week or so before moving further south toward Patagonia.

Valdivia Promenade
Valdivia Promenade

Hiking and river tours are on my agenda. I saw several rowers on the river today. There are three rowing clubs in Valdivia with world and Pan American titles and representation in the Olympics.

Valdivia Sea Lion
Valdivia Sea Lions
Mapuche Woman
Mapuche Woman

While waiting for the bus in Valparaiso, I met German tourists who were on their way to Pucon near the active Villarrica Volcano. Located about 500 miles south of Santiago, Villarrica began erupting about two weeks ago spewing fiery plumes of lava and forcing evacuation of people from nearby towns. Pucon is on my list of places to visit in Chile. The area has great hiking. The eruption calmed and with no more signs of activity, the area was cleared for travel.


  1. navasolanature

    It sounds and looks amazing. There is an Isabel Allende novel about the history of the spanish conquest and the battles with the Mapuche. Hope you get on your hike and no more terremoto.

  2. Thomas

    Stumbled across your blog, and it looks like you’re having a good time. I’m a Peace Corps Volunteer and am looking for people to help me out with a project for my English class in Mozambique. There’s more info on the Postcard Project tab on my blog. Let me know if you’d be able to help out. Haven’t gotten anything from Chile yet

    1. suemtravels

      Thomas – I might be able to help but cannot access your blog. Can you send the link? I’m traveling solo (68 years old) and have no set itinerary. Not sure how long I will stay in Chile. The idea was to rest in Valdivia as I have been traveling for several months and am feeling a bit tired.   Sue

      1. suemtravels

        Thomas – will send post card B4 departing Valdivia! Was briefly in Malawi during a safari from Zimbabwe through Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, and Kenya with a stop off in Zanzibar. Remember how HUGE the lake was! The altitude in the Andes – 10,000 ft. and above – was uncomfortable so I came down to the coast and all the bad symptoms went away. Hope I can go back up into the Andes before returning to the US some time in July.     Best regards,   Sue

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