Before heading up the coast of Chilé we decided to spend a few days in the coastal city of Valparaíso. What use to be a major port city and stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and the Pacific has now transitioned into more of an artistic hub of South America. While the port still plays a role, the Panama Canal reduced ship traffic drastically forcing the city to evolve and find a new identity.
From the moment we arrived, we knew it was special simply due to geography as it was all built upon dozens of steep hillsides overlooking the Pacific. While they were a pain in the ass to walk up and down each day it was fun getting lost in the labyrinth of cobblestone streets and buildings which had no rhyme or reason to their layout. While walking through these streets we were in awe of the amazing artwork done by thousands of local and foreign graffiti artists. No wall, roof, stairwell, ground or railing was off limits to their creativity and unlike the rest of the cities of Chilé, graffiti isn’t illegal here as long as you have permission from the owner. Due to this, artists are constantly jockeying for creative supremacy and painting murals on top of old murals. This means you could visit the city once each year and you would experience a different art each time.
Our first day we took a free walking tour (tip at end) of the city with an English speaking guide. He showed us around the main part of the downtown area and provided history on the city and the artwork. It lasted about three hours but gave us a great foundation to explore for the rest of our time. We also knew he was a gem because as he was talking about the hardships locals have faced in the last decade and listing off things like earthquakes, tropical storms, and economic collapses, he casually threw in Justin Beiber’s concert as another.
In addition to walking around and seeing the street art we also took a boat tour of the bay (for $5 US complete with terrible orange life jackets) and took the city bus ($2 US) down the shore to the resort beach area, Viña del Mar. Buses were interesting here as we realized that you can basically hail them from anywhere on their route and you don’t have to be at a bus stop. It created quite the scene since there were hundreds of buses on the same main drag and all of them where flying on and off the curb with no rhyme or reason. Once we got to Viña del Mar we realized it was clearly the off season as the beach was deserted but we’re from Seattle so any beach on a sunny day is a win in our book!
During our time in the city we stayed at a nice Airbnb for about $30 a night. While the couple who own it rent out all three rooms of the apartment we were the only ones there at the time so we had the whole place to ourselves. I also lucked out as the husband was a beekeeper so obviously I got the inside track to some delicious local honey which I carried with me and ate for the next couple of weeks. Hopefully I can find enough honey from around the world to set me up to be a honey sommelier by the time I get back to Seattle (#lifegoal).