Exploring Valparaíso and the Surrounding Area

Valparaíso was deemed a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2003, and rightfully so given the beauty and culture behind the alluring historic city.  If you have an affinity for street art and/or graffiti, this stop is a must while journeying through Chile.

Day One

Start your morning by heading over to La Sebastiana, one of the three homes of Nobel Prize Winner and Poet, Pablo Neruda.  Neruda purchased La Sebastiana in 1959 in an effort to find some serenity and silence where he could continue his writing.  The 5-floor dwelling was acquired by Neruda unfinished, so as a result, he solicited the help from friends to make it his own.  To tour the house, it is best to arrive when they open at approximately 10:00am, as you cannot make reservations in advance, and the line to enter forms quickly.  Expect to pay around $7,000 pesos for your admission, which includes an audio guide to lead you through the home.

La Sebastiana–one of three of Pablo Neruda’s homes.

After your visit, head down to the “Museo a Cielo Abierto”–a free open museum featuring twenty murals created by students from the Catholic University’s Art Institute.  The artwork completed between 1969 and 1973 gives life to the once bare walls.  Be sure to look for the map identifying the murals so that you can locate each and every one of the pieces.

museo a cielo
Map of the Museo a Cielo Abierto Murals.

From here, make your way to Delicias Express for some made-to-order empanadas.  This small, family-owned locale offers over 80 different types of empanadas.  Be prepared, however, to wait in line as this place is very popular.  Tip: the kitchen closes at 6:00pm–so be sure to place your order before this time to sample some of the best empanadas in the city.

After getting your empanada fix, head to the Plaza Sotomayor for a free guided tour with Tours 4 Tips at 3:00pm.  This tour built on the culture of Valparaíso will take you through the streets of the city for approximately two hours.  Of note, there is another tour at 10:00am each day, which discusses the politics of the city, if that is more your style.  Tipping is expected if you enjoy the complimentary tour, and $5,000 to $10,000 pesos person is considered to be an acceptable tip.  Additionally, there are other tours that begin in this plaza, think: food tour.  So if that is more your style, just look for the tour guides wearing shirts that read “free tour.”  No reservations are usually needed in advance.

After the tour, trek on over to Fauna for a superb dinner option.  The location has a tree-house setting feel to it and guarantees not only delicious food, but also amazing views.  The menu of this unique establishment offers a variety of salads, a hearty meat option, and a few fish dishes.  If the night air is cool, borrow one of the restaurant’s blankets that they have on hand and grab a cup of “chocolate caliente” (hot chocolate) while you wait for your food to be prepared.

One of the featured fish dishes of the evening paired with risotto at Fauna.

Day Two

If you rented a car, take the coastal drive up to Cachagua for a bit of exploring.  Stop in the city of Concón to sample more delicious empanadas at “Las Deliciosas” (Avenida Borgano 25370).  Of note, this small location can only be reached by traveling south due to the fact that the road splits, so be sure to make a U-turn shortly after the road comes back together to reach this hidden gem.  After getting your empanada fix, travel north to continue on your way to Cachagua.

In Cachagua, locate the restaurant, “Los Coirones”–an exquisite oceanfront restaurant providing a multitude of food dishes–for a satisfying lunch option.  The octopus ceviche (ceviche de pulpo) is a must, and another excellent choice is the Crab Crepes (Crepes de cangrejo).

crab crepe.jpg
The Crab Crepe from Los Coirones.

After you are finished with your meal, make your way to the hiking path for an after-meal stroll.  If it is warm enough, be sure to pack your swimsuit and walk over to the next beach via the hiking path.  This beach, which is a bit more secluded, can be reached by walking along the trail for approximately 10 minutes, and if you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the Humboldt penguins that can sometimes be spotted from the trail.

hiking path
Views from the hiking trail.
View of the beach from the path.

If you did not rent a car, spend the day learning how to cook popular Chilean dishes through Chilean Cuisine, a local cooking class company.  This is one of the top activities in Valparaíso, so it comes highly recommended by many.  A bit pricey, but well worth it as it is essentially an all-day affair.  You begin the class by traveling with a chef to the local market to pick up fresh ingredients for your recipes.  After the visit to the market, you will head to the kitchen to whip up some delicious Chilean fare and sample local wines.  All in all, a great way to spend your last day in Valparaíso!

Things to know before leaving:

Currency:  The Chilean currency is the Chilean Peso.  Most places in Valparaíso accept all major credit cards; however, it is never a bad idea to ask in advance whether or not they do to avoid any surprises.  Of note, the ATMs charge steep fees for taking out money, so it is best to exchange at least a little money in advance to be on the safe side.
Tipping:  In Chile, the majority of the restaurants will add a suggested tip of 10%.  You will see it marked on your bill as “Propina Sugerida,” so just let the waiter/waitress know whether or not you want to include this amount when paying–although it is customary to keep it on there if the service was up to par.
Heads up:  
The city of Valparaíso is made up of 45 hills, so be sure to pack a good pair of walking shoes as the city is completely walkable.

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