Valparaiso (Santiago), Chile
The Port of Valparaiso is located about 80 miles from Santiago’s International Airport and takes the drive takes about 70 minutes. Taxi fare is approximately US $100 to $200. Bus service is available from downtown at a fraction of the taxi price. The Passenger Terminal building, which is part of the port facilities, is located one mile from the berths. Passengers check in and then are bussed to the ship.
The Baron Train station is next door to the terminal, and from here guests and crew can take the train to the city center (5 minutes) or to neighboring Viña del Mar (15 minutes).
Transportation: Ground transportation options at Santiago Chile Airport (SCL) include taxis, buses and minibuses. If you’re transferring directly from Santiago airport to Valparaiso, your best bet is to arrange transportation through the cruise line.
If you’re going into Santiago, buses and minibuses can be hired from the tour operator counters located on Level 1 of the central international hall, international arrivals area and domestic arrivals zone. You can also arrange for transportation to Valparaiso through the same transport counters.
The official taxis at the airport are provided by Taxioficial. The taxi counters are located on Level 1 of the central international hall, domestic arrivals area and international arrivals zones. These taxi counters are open 24 hours every day. Travelers are advised to use the official taxis for their own safety.
Rental car counters are located at the same location – Level 1 of the central international hall, domestic arrivals and international arrivals. All rental car counters are open from 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. every day.
Accommodation: The best hotels in the Valparaiso area are in Vina del Mar. Among them are the Sheraton Miramar, Hotel Del Mar, and the Best Western Marina del Rey. In Santiago virtually every international and U.S. hotel is represented including Holiday Inn, Hilton, Marriott, Ritz-Carlton, Sheraton, Crowne Plaza and the Grand Hyatt. There are also many fine Chilean and South American brands such as Atton Santiago, Neruta Hotel, and the Buena Vista Apartment Hotel among many others.
Overview: The entire town of Valparaiso seems to precariously hang on precipitous cliffs, crisscrossed by narrow, twisting footpaths, stairways and the city’s time-tested rapid transit system of 15 funicular cars called ascensores.
Founded in 1536, Valparaíso is Chile’s oldest city. It is also the gateway to Chile’s central valley and the beautiful Viña Del Mar, the popular seaside resort only few miles away. Santiago, the nation’s capital, can be reached with a 90-minute ride across rolling valleys. With a population of over five million people, Santiago sprawls at the foot of the snow-capped Andes. One of the city’s prime cultural highlights is the excellent Pre-Columbian Museum, which displays 4,500 years of indigenous Latin American culture in modern surroundings.
Valparaiso occupies a narrow strip of land between the waterfront and the nearby hills, its convoluted centre has distinctive, sinuous cobbled streets, and is overlooked by precipitous cliffs and hilltop suburbs which are accessed by funicular railways and stairway footpaths. It is conducive to maze-like strolls and rides on the funicular, and its natural history, fine arts and maritime museums are justly famed.
Muelle Prat, the recently redeveloped pier, is a lively market area. Nearby is the National Congress and the Victoria, Sotomayor and Anibal Pinto squares, the Natural History Museum, the Naval Museum, the Cathedral and the Paseo Muelle Baron. The most interesting part of Valparaiso is the old section, where you will find colonial buildings, churches, and museums. Also worth seeing is author Pablo Neruda’s favorite house, a few minutes from town. It is a colorful, sunlit mansion overlooking the water. The house is now a museum.
Be careful when walking in Valparaiso. Cameras are particular targets for thieves.
Serrano Street is an important historic area surrounded by many monumental buildings from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The Cerro Cordillera area contains the historic Castillo San Jose, home to the Lord Cochrane Museum of the Sea.
Nearby, Viña del Mar is one of Chile’s most fashionable beach resorts and a great place to take a vacation if you want go to the beach and relax. The town was founded in 1874 as a weekend retreat and garden residence for the wealthy elite from Valparaíso and Santiago, and it has remained a top beach destination for Santiaguinos ever since. Most simply call the city “Viña”
The sight of Viña del Mar’s attractive homes, manicured lawns, and golden beaches dotted with colorful surfboards is something of a contrast to the ramshackle streets of Valparaíso. It’s relaxing place to spend a few days if you want to recover from your flight before hopping aboard the cruise ship…
The city is divided into two sectors: the downtown and the beach-front. Several downtown locations are desirable for their proximity to the lush Quaint Verger Park and shops, but it’s about a 15-minute walk to the beach from here. The beach area is better suited for tourists, with plenty of hotels and restaurants.
But, to fly this distance and not see and experience Santiago would be a mistake, for this is one of South America’s friendliest and accessible cities.
When you think about the great cities of the world, it’s doubtful that you’d mention this place of almost six million people that rests at the foot of the Andes. It has two symphony orchestras, one of South America’s finest opera companies, contemporary and traditional art galleries, 16 major museums, and 33 public and private universities. And it’s a city that can easily be defined by the vibrant and colorful art you find in even the most humble of places.
Regardless of which section of the city you stay, Santiago offers a wide-range of cultural attractions that will keep you busy for days. Santiago is split into barrios, or neighborhoods, each with a distinct style and character. Find your way to Barrio Bellavista, the bohemian neighborhood near the Santiago Sheraton Hotel and an area known for the French influences in architecture, culture and feel. Its streets are lined with trees and a variety of colorful old homes, many of which have been converted into restaurants and studios for artists and musicians.
It’s a romantic area and while it’s a pleasant enough place for an afternoon stroll and shopping, it’s where you want to be in the evening and long into the night as Bellavista pulses to the beat of music pouring from its many discos and bars. And like most of the city, it is safe to walk at night.
Nighttime fun begins sometime around 10 p.m. and lasts well into the early mornings as pubs and nightclubs close around 4 a.m. Usually the only people dining between 6-9 p.m. are North American and European tourists.
When you’ve tired of eating and shopping, be sure to explore Bellavista’s prime attraction, La Chascona, one of three homes once owned by Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.
The home was built to resemble a ship and its unusually shaped rooms wind around a compact courtyard. The home is headquarters for the Fundación Pablo Neruda which provides guided tours.
Of course, you have to start any Santiago tour at the downtown square, the Plaza de Armas. During the day Plaza de Armas is a heart of the city. This is where local artists sell their paintings and where you’ll find some of majors attractions of Santiago. Palacio de la Real Audiencia is a beautifully preserved colonial building that houses the Museo Historico Nacional, the nation’s major depository of history and a must-see attraction.
The Metropolitan Cathedral, on the western side of the plaza, stands where the first church in Santiago was once built and two other important buildings – the Post Office and the Town Hall of Santiago – are typical old colonial Spanish buildings.
A few blocks south of the plaza is Barrio Paris-Londres, an intimate atmospheric neighborhood that captures the spirit of Left Bank Paris with its narrow, cobblestone streets and offbeat galleries and shops. Most of the houses were built in the 1920’s and the streets are now vehicle restricted areas with artist studios, hotels and restaurants.
There is no end to the possibilities in exploring Santiago. The shopping is superb with major malls scattered throughout the city such as the Mall Alto las Condes, arguably the most modern shopping center in South America and close to the Grand Hyatt Santiago. The Pueblo Los Dominicos, at the end of Avenue Apoquindo, is world famous for its 180 handicraft shops. It is well worth the cab ride.
If you are an English-speaker, don’t worry about getting around the city. Most of the taxi drivers, hotel and restaurant employees will speak and understand English.
Things to do:
Chile’s wines are among the best in the world at incredibly low prices. So take a wine tour through the Maipo valley while you’re in Santiago and visit the many vineyards within an hour or so of the city limits.
At the eastern end of downtown Santiago is Cerro Santa Lucia, a small hill adorned with wonderful facades, fountains and stairways, and a wonderful place to get an overall view of the city. There’s even a castle on it. It was here, at the foot of this hill that the city of Santiago was founded on Feb. 12, 1541. Cerro Santa Lucia is on the city’s main road, Alameda, and subway station is beneath it. There are a variety of entry points including an elevator on the western side although it is recommended to start at the main entrance on Alameda.
Almost directly across from the hill is the Cerro Santa Lucia handicraft market, likely the most traditional place in which to buy handicrafts and small art objects. The selection isn’t limited to Chilean art. Here you’ll find a variety of Chilean, Peruvian and Bolivian handicrafts.
– By Ray Chatelin