Valparaiso & Vina del Mar
Why visit Valparaiso and Vina del Mar?
Valparaíso is Chile’s main port and a UNESCO World Heritage site. This colourful, bohemian city overlooks a wide bay, and the mixed cultural influences so often found in port cities are evident here. It’s not smart, but the dilapidated charm of its historic mansions, winding alleys and slightly chaotic air has a definite appeal. The views over the harbour from its hills are glorious.
In contrast, Viña del Mar – just ten minutes’ drive from Valparaíso - is manicured, with impeccable boulevards and majestic historic palaces. It is known as ‘La Ciudad Jardin’ – the garden city – and the La Quinta Vergara gardens are a must-see. Viña del Mar is hugely popular at weekends from December to February, when Santiago residents flock to its golden-sand Pacific coast beaches.
Reasons to visit Valparaiso and Vina del Mar include:
- Explore the alleyways of Valparaíso looking at the street art and graffiti that proliferates there, or head to the Museo a Cielo Alierto, with its 20 vibrant murals created in the early 1970s.
- Take the Peral elevator up to Valparaíso’s Cerro Alegre, and spend time watching the artists, musicians, poets and jugglers.
- Visit La Sebastiana, the modernist home of Pablo Neruda, the poet and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Architecturally unique in Valparaíso, it is now a museum to his work and life.
- For some wonderful views of Valparaíso and the Pacific Ocean take the Cerro Concepcion elevator to Cerro Concepcion itself, and visit one of the many restaurants up here.
- Learn about Chilean maritime history at Valparaíso’s Naval Maritime Museum, close to the popular beach of Playa Ancha.
- Eat the freshest possible fish, newly-caught and served in one of the restaurants in the fishing town of Caletas Portales
- See how many plants you can identify in Viña del Mar’s La Quinta Vergara, which features flora from around the world, and visit the museum of fine art in the Venetian Gothic-styled Palacio Vergara.
- Museo de Arqueología e Historia Francisco Fonck in Viña del Mar has some wonderful Easter Island archaeological plus traditional silverwork.
- If you feel like a gentle flutter, there is a casino in Viña del Mar, housed in Castilo Wulff, a castle overlooking the Pacific. Art exhibits are also staged in the castle, and the glass floor of its tower gives views of the rocks beneath.
- Music lovers visiting Viña del Mar in February should head for the Quinta Vergara Amphitheatre, for the renowned International Song Festival.
- Just 8km from Viña you’ll find the Jardín Botánico Nacional – 400 hectares with some 3,000 plant species
- The coastal village of Zapallar has the palest sand beach, bordered by pine trees, and is home to some splendid late 19th century villas that were built for some of Chile’s wealthiest families.
- Head out to the winelands.
When to go to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar
These are year round destinations, with most activities and attractions not overly weather dependent.
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facts and information
Time: GMT -4 hours
There are direct flights from London Heathrow to Santiago, which operate 4 times a week and take 14 hours 40 minutes. The Chilean airline, LATAM, flies via Madrid.
Language: The official language is Spanish. but other local languages are also spoken. English is spoken quite widely.
Visas are not currently required for British passport holders staying for up to 90 days, who are issued with a ‘Tarjeta de Turismo-Tourist Card’ on arrival. You must retain this and present it to immigration on departure.
Generally none is compulsory but we recommend the following: hepatitis A and B, typhoid, diphtheria, meningitis, tetanus, rabies and polio. There is no malaria in Chile. A yellow fever certificate is required if you are coming from an infected area.