We wound up our trip to South America with a day trip to the beautiful and colourful city of Valparaíso. Located 1-2 hours by Bus from Santiago, Valparaíso is the second largest city in Chile, located on the Pacific coast. It used to be a prosperous ancient port city, inhabited by wealthy merchants, but the opening of the Panama Canal shifted the need to sail around the continent and the city lost its importance.

Exploring Valparaiso

After our experience in Santiago, we decided to stick to Tour 4 Tips in Valparaiso as well to explore the city. They have 2 tours – Valparaiso Offbeat at 10am and Valparaiso Highlights at 3pm. Both start from Plaza Sotomayor, a central square in the city which can be easily reached by taking a local bus from the main bus terminal.  We had time for only one, so opted for the Offbeat tour, which covers Downtown areas and offers you a glimpse of murals.

Headquarters of the Chilean Navy
Plaza Sotomayor – HQ of Chilean Navy

At 10am you will find the Guides waiting at the Square dressed bright Red-White striped shirts – who refer themselves as Wally’s – Like Where’s Wally. Once its 10am, groups are formed and after short introductions they take you for Walking tour of Valparaiso. They are friendly, informative and will immerse you in history without boring you (Well, except when they start discussing Pinochet & Allende).

Valparaíso is very famous for its Murals and Graffiti. While Mural is considered an Art form done with permission, Graffiti is vandalism. The guides take you through neighbourhoods having both. A few snapshots from the tour below.

Graffiti in Neighbourhoods
3D Mural!
A rare 3D Mural!
One of the many neighbourhoods
Very Colourful neighbourhoods
A middle class house
A middle class house

You also get to ride two major forms of transport – the old Trolleybus and the City Bus – with the Guides and group. The Tour finishes at their office, located in an old classic Apartment . You get to taste Jote – Wine+Coke drink – as you conclude the tour 🙂 The tour is offered for free and if you like their services, you can tip them at the end. They neither force you or emotionally appeal to you to get the tip! You also get to ask any questions regarding the city and get free maps and directions.

Exploring the City on our own

Post a quick lunch at an Asian Restaurant – Tokyo House – we went about exploring the city on our own. There were two items on our list. First, to ride the Historic funiculars and then enjoy the famed colourful houses in the Historic Quarter.

First was the Funicular. The Guide told us beautiful one was located near the main square – Concepción. In operation since 1833, this is a small ride for 300CLP one way.

Riding the Funicular
Riding the Funicular

Riding the funicular brings you to Cerro Concepción, a hill overlooking the bay and Historic Quarter of Valparaiso. From here you can get a panoramic view of the city and the colourful houses of Valparaiso.

Colourful houses of Valparaiso
Colourful houses of Valparaiso
Graffiti Art everywhere
More Graffiti

After that we decided to head back to our Hotel. Took the local bus to the Terminal and an intercity bus back to Pajeritos.

Getting to Valparaíso

Valparaíso is primarily by Bus or Car. Easiest way is to take a Bus from Pajaritos Bus Terminal in Santiago. There is no need to book in advance, you can show up 1 hour before the trip and buy a ticket from the Counter. There are many Private companies running their services on an hourly basis. The Buses are air-conditioned and have reclining seats.

Getting around Valparaíso

Valparaiso is a small city and has a good public transport system. You can use the cheap Tolleybus or Buses which follow circular routes to Navigate the City. To move uptown-downtown you can use the historic ascensores or funiculars.

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