Valparaiso is such a unique and beautiful city often compared to San Francisco and any time you visit Chile you must put aside at least 2 full days to explore the wonderfully decorated laneways. After a month of living in Santiago, we were on the bus for less than 2 hours before arriving into what seemed like a completely different world. The change in humidity and temperature seemed like the best thing until you realize you are finally breathing clean, fresh sea air and everything in your world is better for it. Don’t get me wrong; Santiago is an amazing city to explore and visit but there are so many reasons why if you have limited time you should consider spending the majority of your time (and money) in Valparaiso.
There is certainly no shortage of bars and restaurants in Santiago but in terms of cost and quality, I can’t say that there is really any competition. Our first evening we found Restaurant Taulat in a hostel with limited seating on the rooftop patio and as we were told the seafood in Valparaiso was on par with the best in the world we obviously had to try it. A hostel is not somewhere I would recommend getting a meal usually and especially not seafood but what the hell; we ordered a tuna steak and some indigenous white fish fillet, both came with a base of risotto. The tuna was cooked absolutely perfectly and went great with the wine our server recommended; best of all the bill came to around U$10 each.
The following day we spent hours wandering the narrow colorful passageways that Valparaiso is known for filled with cute cafés and creative street art around every corner along with the great gift and craft stores. Watching artists’ creating new pieces along the way was really cool, but we couldn’t stop and take it in entirely as we wanted to see all there was to see with limited time to see it. After the fish the night before, we were now on the hunt for more seafood so next on our agenda was the ceviche at the beautiful MM450 hotel combined with their flavored pisco sour special served on the front patio.
We then wandered aimlessly again through the winding streets killing the time until our dinner reservations at Fauna Restaurant where the Tabla del Mar for 2 is famous. The view here was absolutely spectacular so we made our reservation the evening before and requested a seat along the railing for the best sunset view of Valparaiso. We obviously got the platter to share and our waiter suggested a beautiful Carménère to accompany all of the delicious seafood. We couldn’t put the camera down throughout our evening as the view, restaurant, wine and all the food were all so perfectly photogenic and we wanted to remember everything. Eventually, we finished our wine and made our way home to rest up for the following day.
The next day we got up early and made our way to the train station where we bought a transit card and boarded the next train to Viña del Mar. The local buskers were quite impressive, although we couldn’t understand them and the views of the ocean on one side and old mansions inland were really cool. It took about 20 minutes and we were suddenly disembarking into the center of Viña del Mar where it seemed like an entirely different world compared to the touristy, vibrant streets of Valparaiso. We made our way to the promenade in search of a good coffee but the only store was Starbucks and as a “slight” coffee snob I attempt to avoid chains as much as possible. So instead we quickly did a Yelp search and found Tonic coffee house nearby, which suited our wants perfectly.
Next up was lunch and we spotted a small restaurant across the street with a cheap menu del dia which looked delicious and enjoyed a great 3-course lunch for approximately $8 each. We had finished walking around Viña del Mar earlier than anticipated and decided to take the hour walk back to Valparaiso instead of the train to check out the beaches and other barrios on the way. While chasing more beautiful graffiti we found ourselves climbing the hill up to Barrio Bella Vista for the beautiful panoramic views of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. The funicular was undergoing restorations so there was no easy way to get up the hill in the late mid-day sun but the view from the top was worth the effort. Once we had taken in the vista it was time to make our way back down the decorated winding alleyways to Cerro Concepcion where our AirBnB was located. On our final evening, we enjoyed a nice bottle of wine and dinner at home then prepared for the long bus trip the following day down to northern Patagonia.
Our first stop in Patagonia was Puerto Varas where we stayed at the AWA Hotel and rented a car to visit the beautiful Isla Chiloe.