About ninety minutes due west of Santiago lies a vivacious, gritty city known as Valparaiso. Right now it feels a world away, even though it was just last week we visited. Buses leave regularly from the Pajaritos station for about $7.50 each way and it’s a pretty straightforward but beautiful drive.
The city of Valparaiso is much bigger than I’d imagined. The mass of colour seems to stretch in every direction, rolling with the never ending hills (45 of them in fact). Funiculars and lifts are dotted around for those who want to take advantage but we were happy for the extra steps. The Pacific Ocean twinkles blue below and its port was once responsible for the city’s initial boom.
We’d heard the city could be rough; a friend of mine had been mugged of her entire backpack a few years ago, so we mostly stuck to the beaten but still beautiful, tourist path. We walked up Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Algere and explored both of these hills. The street art is simply incredible. It’s abundant, it’s colourful and it’s also extremely skilful. We were loosely working from a street art map we’d found online, but basically Calle Templeman is where street art is found in epic quantities.
We spent a few hours combing Calle Templeman and its surrounding streets before hunger got the better of us and we found ourselves at El Desayunador for lunch. The menu was quite basic and possibly a little limited but they executed what they offered very well. The cheese omelette was divine, super gooey and stretchy. The decor was pretty and our little window seat was a wonderful spot for people watching.
After lunch we explored until we were sick of the views and then made our way down to Plaza Sotomayer. This popular square was buzzing with local markets as well as a busking band, who would jump out and play on the street in between traffic lights. They were very entertaining and certainly popular with passersby.
On our way back to the bus stop we veered up Bellavista hill in the hope of alternatively cool views. They didn’t quite meet our hopes but it was interesting seeing some of the houses close up. We also managed to witness a street fight, pass through a fish market and be offered weed in the park all before we made it back to the bus.
We saw Valparaiso at a good time: that night the riots began. As a city of old wooden buildings, Valparaiso isn’t handling the heat (literally and figuratively) of the current riots all too well. Fingers crossed it all stops soon because Valparaiso is a uniquely beautiful place.