BLOG & PHOTOS: Chile's riviera
Vina del Mar Travel Blog› entry 8 of 10 › view all entries
The Pacific Coast cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaiso are easily reached by frequent bus services from Santiago. The two adjoining towns could not be more different from each other.
Viña is Chile’s riviera with many tall beachfront apartments, casinos, nightclubs and restaurants. This unashamedly affluent city is also known as the Garden City. Beautifully landscaped gardens and beaches make Viña ideal for strolling and relaxing.
In contrast, nearby Valparaiso is a bustling port surrounded by hills packed with a disarray of colourful houses and pockets of shanty-towns. A labyrinth of alleyways and stairs connect the different levels of the hills, supplemented by ascensores built between 1883 and 1916.
Ascensores are often explained as funicular railways but are more like inclined elevators. No visit to Valparaiso is complete without a few hours exploring and getting cheap thrills riding in these contraptions. Could it be the excitement of being taken somewhere totally different? Like a posh street, the Naval Museum or a picturesque lookout. Maybe it is the anticipation of arriving safely as one rides in the claustrophobic rickety metal box.
The Ascensor Polanco is one with a difference because it’s simply a big elevator built into the core of a hill - one walks into a tunnel at the foot of the hill to catch the elevator to the hilltop-suburbs.
Here are couple of tips for visitors needing a tea break after some hard exploration. Firstly, tea is commonly served black in Chile. Even McDonald’s had no milk but offered snowfreeze concentrate instead - nice vanilla flavour but sickeningly rich. Secondly, ensure that you hold on to your bag even when you’re seated deep inside a respectable restaurant. Our pack started moving on the floor as it was nudged by a foot from the next table!