The colorful houses of Valparaiso in the sunlight
Of all the cities that I´ve visited I would have to say that Valpariaso was probably the most interesting place to walk around. It has such a great mixture with the colorful character of its diverse and aging architecture and the natural beauty in the steep rolling hills and coastal location. The steep hillsides are interconnected with the rest of the city though numerous ancient ascensors, short railway sections and elevators and hidden steep and winding staircases. There are innumerable numbers of murals painted the sides of house-sides and retaining walls and the buildings are stacked up at precarious and gravity defying angles that climb all the way up to the highest stretches of the hills. Some of the buildings are rapidly decaying while others are newer structures with all the character of their older neighbors.
Looking west from Cerro Concepcion
Located up on a small perch of land on one hill is one of Pablo Neruda´s houses, its five or six floors adorned with all sorts of intriguing artifacts collected throughout his life and with fabulous views over the city. Sadly the waterfront area of Valparaiso
is dominated by the container shipping port rather than beaches, although this is compensated by the numerous beaches lining the coast in Viña del Mar, its sister city. A popular resort town, the beaches were packed with people in town to celebrate the Easter holiday. One of the nicer beaches, Reñaca, has huge waves with outstanding views of Valparaiso (slightly tainted by the smoggy air) through the pounding whitewater of the breaking waves, and of course a beachfront Burger King to top it all off.
A church up the steep streets
There are a few museums in Valparaiso but the real draw to the city is wandering amid the labrynthine pathways and alleys that run across the hills, mixed in with restaurants and cafes and outdoor artwork. The areas with the better views at the tops of the hills are strangely the poorer and reportedly unsafe areas. Being Easter weekend, much of the stores and restaurants were closed but the Saturday night before Easter all the bars and clubs were packed with people and we ended up hanging out in a plaza with a bunch of Chilean skater/punk types for a while after failing find some live Reggae show before going out to one of the clubs. On Sunday the beach was crowded and at least in Viña del Mar almost everything was open while in Valparaiso there were a lot of people out in the streets but very little actually open. The presence of the city was definitely enhanced by a great crowd of people that I met and hung around with at the hostel, but unfortunately as every good holiday weekend does, things came to an end on Monday with everyone leaving town and going their separate ways, hopefully to meet up again somewhere down the road.