Take a game of Chutes and Ladders sprinkled with a multitude of colors and use your imagination to get an idea of how dreamy this place seemed to me. The views were picturesque no matter where you looked. The entire city was blanketed with festive hues and incredible street art that was without a doubt a hearty feast for the eyes. Valpo lived up to its bohemian reputation and you could find art everywhere — without all the pretension. This was definitely my new favorite city and I wanted to explore every quirky nook and cranny!
Since our night bus had arrived horrendously early from Mendoza we waited at the station a good four hours until 9 am and then headed to our hostel. I would highly recommend taking the daytime bus from Mendoza since the views are impeccable while traversing the Andes. We found a great place in Cerro Concepcion (La Llave de Sol B&B) run by a lovely couple that really made us feel at home. The hostel was located in Pasaje Templeman, an alley tastefully decorated with street art and lined with delightfully colored doorways. When we stepped inside the home was very serene and felt like the perfect place to rest our heads.
While waiting for our room we checked out El Desayunador located a block away from our hostel. The food was delicious—fresh, homemade and simple. After breakfast we walked around the neighborhood to take a peak at some of the street art and the stunning hilltop views of Valparaiso.
While exploring our new city we stumbled upon Fauna Restaurant near Paseo Dimalow. Manu has lovingly dubbed me “the backpackers nightmare” since I always seem to choose great places to eat that are a bit pricey for our budget. However, he chose the pricey restaurant this time but neither one of us was disappointed. You definitely get what you pay for here and what we got was a perfectly grilled salmon with golden potatoes and some fantastic craft beer. Plus the view from this rooftop restaurant could not be beat!
The next day we decided to do the free walking tour with Tours 4 Tips. We ended up having a great time on the tour with our guide Felipe who was entertaining and knowledgeable. He had a deep passion for his job and his city, which made the tour even more memorable. Some of the spots we visited were Plaza Sotomayor, Muelle Prat, Paseo Dimalow, Paseo Atkinson, Museo Palacio Baburizza, Cerro Alegre and our current neighborhood of Cerro Concepcion. Along the way we rode the city’s very well-organized public transport including the trolley and the Reina Victoria funicular.
Being that Valparaiso is a quirky town Felipe provided us not only with historical and social facts that were fascinating but also insider tidbits about the street murals and colorful houses. A particular mural we saw by Chilean artist Inti Castro really stood out to me and was beautifully elaborated with important indigenous symbols of South America.
Our guide also gave us some back story regarding the different colored houses that playfully decorate the city. He mentioned that back in the old days residents would go out to the docks and get whatever paint color they could get their hands on since it was so expensive to purchase. This resulted in the multicolored houses scattered around town. This oddity also helps when finding a place with no address. “Just go to the yellow house on the corner in Templeman”- comes in pretty handy when you’re lost.
During the tour we sampled some great Chilean delicacies including homemade Alfajores, salmon empanadas and pisco. Our guide also showed us a local microbrewery named Altamira that we later visited after the tour. Besides the good beer they had some great memorabilia about Valpo and yummy food.
A must-do when in Valparaiso is a visit to La Sebastiana- the home of Pablo Neruda. I had heard of this writer before but was not intimately familiar with his work. After Manu and I read some of his poems and visited the house I became an instant fan. The property is stunning and sits on Cerro Florida overlooking the entire city. It is no wonder he was able to write and create masterpieces in that space since the home is a dreamy entity in and of itself. It is definitely a place that evokes creativity and sparks imagination.
I’ve been to so many places on this great adventure and have claimed to love many cities along the way. I can confidently say that Valparaiso has definitely stolen my heart! This amazing city with all its splendors allows one to dream. It inspires me to travel further and discover more of these hidden gems in South America.