Valparaiso: An Every Travel Photographer’s Dream


Valparaiso or Valpo in short is a magic coast city that attracts travelers around the world for its colorful history. The city’s street culture and provocative yet appealing graffiti also appeals and inspires a lot of photographers.  The well-known Chilean poet and literature Nobel Prize winner, Pablo Neruda, also considered the city as a haven. During your stay in Valparaiso, don’t miss to visit La Sebastiana house museum, La Sebastiana, is nestled on Mount Florida and has an endless view of the sea. It was in this place where Neruda was able to escape the tiredness he had felt from the noise of Santiago and found an abode to “live and write in peace.” His verse remains forever on the walls of this house.

At 6pm Tuesday, 15th of March, I arrived safely in Santiago via Sky Airline flight H2 68. Jo, my traveling companion, flew in from a different flight.  From the airport we were fortunate to have met a reliable taxi driver, Alfonso, who drove us all the way to Valparaiso.  A cab ride from the Santiago Airport to Valparaiso would normally cost 75,000 CLP. But if you are up for haggling you can get it down to 40,000CLP (1USD = 475CLP).  Alternatively, you can take a bus from Pajaritos Terminal, which is cheaper and would only cost you from 2400CLP.  There are number of bus services that leaves every 15 minutes.  You can either take a taxi, bus or metro from the airport to Pajaritos Terminal. It takes approximately an hour by taxi and hour and 30 minutes by bus from Pajaritos to Valparaiso Terminal. We made a good decision to take the cab, as it was quite an ordeal finding our Hotel Latitud 33.

The intricacies of the paved streets were evident throughout the city of Valpo, It took Alfonso and 10 shout outs to get us through the doorway of our quaint small boutique hotel, which is located right in the district of Cerro Conception. The district is one of the most picturesque areas in the city and also a gateway to gorgeous vistas, charming shops, galleries and restaurants.  Hotel Latitud was a typical abandoned building, which was used as site of the film ‘Furia.’ I personally love the mix of the old constructions and exquisite interior design. We were blessed to have the friendliest, most attentive and helpful staff during our stay in Hotel Latitud.  The owners made sure to respond to all our requests and needs despite of the communication barrier.

Valparaiso is apparently one of the more dangerous places in the region, because of its harbor location. A handful of local people and even passing taxi drivers warned us with a reminder ‘Cuidado con tu camara’ (be careful with your camera).  As in any busy and large cities in the world, always be cautious and aware of your surroundings. Be alert for pick-pocketing, purse and camera snatching, and thefts from backpacks and rental cars.  Even during the day, the port area is considered unsafe.

We started our morning with a nice breakfast. Rosa, the hotel housekeeper, always checks in if we had enough for breakfast before leaving the hotel for our day trips. Juana, the hotel owner, introduced us to Marcela whom I consider my angel, and became our companion throughout our stay in Valpo.  Marcela speaks excellent English. She was recommended by the hotel for a personalized tour guide service by foot – the best way to discover the ins and outs of the city of Valpo.

At 3 pm, after a delectable Chilean lunch at Café Vinilo,which is located in Almirante Montt, our tour started with a quick visit to the laundry to get our dirty clothes washed for 3900CLP for each load. This was followed by a walk along Esmeralda Street and then a stop at the Diario del Mercurio, a historical newspaper printingbuilding which until now is still fully operational.

From here, we headed to Plaza Sotomayor, the principal naval heart of the city of Valparaiso. At the plaza’s entrance you will see the Monument to the Heroes of Iquique. After enjoying a nice stroll in the Plaza, we walked along Serrano Street. The historic commercial street underwent restoration after a scorching gas explosion seriously damaged numerous buildings in February, 2007. Remnants from the explosion are still apparent

We walked for another few blocks until we reached the Iglesia de la Matriz, a church located in the main port district of the city. The church is surrounded by cobblestone streets and houses. It has a historical importance in the city and was declared a National Monument of Chile.

The highlight of the foot tour was the ride to one of the hillside elevators, Ascensor Artilleria. The ride costs 300 CLP and will bring you to Paseo 21 de Mayo walk.In here, you will enjoy a panoramic view of the city and the ocean.  We took a break at the step of the hill to take a look at handicrafts stores where you can buy local local-made produced. The most appealing part of the foot tour was the walk to the university hill, Playa Ancha (wide beach) for an urban snoop and displays of endless colorful and rows of charming houses.

We ended the afternoon tour with a short visit to Vina del Mar. You have to take a 15-minute bus ride to reachVina Del Mar (or Vina in short). Vina is known as the ‘Garden City’ and the premier beach for the Chileans. It’s a favorite destination of international traveler taking pride for its luxurious beach resorts, shops and casinos. To get around Valpo, via public local transportation is very simple and easy.

On Thursday, 17th of March, following a delicious lunch at Almacen Nacional on Almirante Montt, we strolled towards the steep streets of Cello Alegre  (Happy Hill)and visited Iglesia San Luis.  Then we took Bus 612 # to visit La Sebastiana, one of the three houses of Pablo Neruda.  Located in the hills of Valparaiso, (at Ferrari 692 near the top of the steepest street in Valparaiso), this 4-level house provides you an informative audio guided tour to discover his delightful collections which are reminders of his passion, dream and hope. Adjoining the house is a small gift shop with various books and mementos of the poet.
His study window is overlooking the Pacific Ocean and definitely my favorite part of the house where you get an impressive and breathtaking bird’s eye view of all Valporaíso.

Friday, 18th of March, was our last day in Valpo.  We started off our morning by visiting the Port for a boat ride.  At 2000 CLP fee, it will allow you to see the full beauty of the bay and hilltop districts.  The places are accessible by stairways and funicular elevators. The Port overlooks the mountain range that leads to the sea filled with all sorts of vessels including naval battleships.  We spotted some sea lions comfortably lying lazily on the harbour.

We took another bus ride from Vina to De La Huerta a tu Plato Restaurant (From my garden to your plate) for a much needed vegetarian lunch.  When we returned to Valpo, we visited the Paseo Gervasoni (Gervasoni Walk) by taking the Concepcion Elevator, another unique experience that offers a spectacular view of the city. For those interested to know about the local history, another interesting place to see was the Casa Mirador de Lukas museum which offers a great collection of paintings and drawings of Valparaiso.  From here, we walked back to Pasaje Templeman, which leads to our Hotel Latitud to collect our luggage and to bid our affectionate and sincere adieu to Marcela and the warm hotel staff.  After an hour and 30-minute bus ride (via Tur Bus from 3600 CLP) we arrived in Santiago safe and sound.

© 2012 by Michelle Riel, retains sole copyright to her contributions to all the contents of this site.

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