After visiting Santiago we stayed for a couple of days around Valparaíso, 112 km northwest of Chile's capital and biggest city. Valparaíso is one of the South Pacific's most important seaports and has played an important role in the 19th century when the city served as a stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and the Pacific. In 2003 UNESCO has declared Valparaíso Historic Quarter as a World Heritage Site.
Nowadays Valparaíso is visited by many tourists from around the world due to its colorful buildings, steep roads and chaotic walkways full of street art and graffiti works. There's several hills and numerous "elevators" on the steep hillsides. We found incredible similarities with Lisbon in Portugal and we spent several hours just walking around the historical quarter full of colors, artists and nice terraces with great views of the city and the sea. Here we saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time in this trip across South America (we saw it before in a road trip we made through the USA west coast - you can find a very small post about it here).
We caught Ascensor Concepción, the city's first funicular (dating from 1883) and one of the most popular climbing 69 meters. Concepción hill is a very popular place for walking, taking pictures, buying artifacts and souvenirs and enjoying a coffee with great views. We also visited the Museo Lukas that had a temporary exhibition about the Mapuche culture and Araucanía region (photography) and the permanent collection about the artist and his work. It was our first contact with his drawings and illustrations but we liked what we saw, specially his cartoons and caricatures to the Chilean magazines.
Valparaíso was also home of the famous artist Pablo Neruda and one of his houses is located in the city, in the Bellavista neighborhood. La Sebastiana (the name of the house) is currently a museum from Fundación Pablo Neruda and can be visited (audio guided tour) paying 6,000$CH/person. Each floor is decorated with his own style and full of Neruda's collections including paintings, glasses and other artworks. The city and sea views from each division are amazing!
“I built the house. First, I made it of air. Then, I raised the flag in the air and left it hanging from the sky, from the light and the darkness.” Pablo Neruda – excerpt from “To La Sebastiana”
Very close to Valparaíso, 8km north, is Viña del Mar, actually located withing the Valparaíso region and also part of the Greater Valparaíso area. The city is often called as "ciudad jardín" ("garden city") and it is Chile's fourth largest city. The city is also known for its impressive coastal buildings, hotels, malls an various entertainment venues. The coast is very nice, full of sandy beaches and walkways to enjoy the sea views. Great spot to relax from the chaotic Valparaíso. Again we found it very similar to Cascais in Portugal!
We visited the famous Fonck Museum (2,000$/person), that shows objects from native villages in Chile, with a special focus in the Rapanui culture from the Easter Island. Outside and in front of the museum is actually one original moai! The museum also presents a great collection of objects from other cultures like the Mapuches, Diaguitas, Atacameños and others. Additionally there is a sample of arthropods and animals of different zones of the country in the museum first floor.
Next stop: Somewhere in Argentina (again!)