Difference between revisions of "Valparaíso"
Revision as of 03:02, 31 July 2010
Valparaíso is a city of around 300,000 on the Pacific coast of the central region of Chile. Frequently referred to as simply Valpo, it is located approximately 120km west of the capital, Santiago de Chile. The city is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly colored houses, and beautiful seaside views.
During the last week in the year, Valparaiso holds an annual carnival that everyone should experience at least once in their lives. Each year the festival centers around a different country, from which performers and artists are invited to come and represent their culture and their work in theater, music, and the performance arts. Most activities are free and are held outdoors. The celebration culminates with a New Year firework display that within five of the most beautiful in the planet. Oops, but get ready in time because the city's population triples on those dates. I recommend visiting the Mirador del Cerro Artillery, panoramic view of the city of Vina del Mar, Reñaca, Con Con and more ... It reaches through the "lift" Artillery, in operation since 1893 (ask for Customs plaza area), its current value is 250 Chilean pesos, on the first floor is the Mirador "Walk May 21," (delivered to the community in the year 1911) in which impossible not to enjoy the restaurant "Calaufquen", typical dishes of fresh seafood, with a fair value. We are here with a Craft Fair in which they can buy from winter clothing (ponchos, Ruan, scarves, socks, gloves, wool hats), souvenir of the most varied models and prices, up figures and jewelry from lapis lazuli (blue stone semi-precious which is only in Chile and Afghanistan), by price and quality of the stone, I recommend the last local . We may also visit the Naval Museum "(500 Chilean pesos) whose income is in the midst of the Paseo.
Valparaiso does not have its own airport. The closest airport with commercial service is Arturo Merino Benitez International Airport (SCL) in Santiago, some 1.5 hours away, which offers extensive domestic and international service.
To to get to Valparaíso from Santiago's airport, you will catch a bus heading to Pajaritos outside of the airport terminal. This will drop you off at the North side of "Pajaritos" a bus/subway station on the outskirts of Santiago, cross to the South side of the Subway station to get to the Bus Platform. From here, buses leave frequently for Valparaiso and other destinations; you may also take the subway into downtown Santiago. It is generally not necessary to have a bus ticket before arriving at Pajaritos.
The Metro Valparaíso or Merval  runs between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, as well as surrounding communities. It runs from 6.00am to 11.30pm, and is new, clean and fast. Adult fares range from Ch$204 to Ch$1080 depending on the time of day and the distance travelled, but value cards of a minimum of Ch$1200 must be used; single tickets are not sold.
While Valparaiso itself can be a bit of a difficult city in which to drive, the area's highway system is generally of good quality. Note that there are often tolls on highways.
Buses from a wide variety of destinations within Chile have scheduled service to Valparaiso, in addition to service to the Argentine city of Mendoza. The bus terminal is located close to the National Congress building.
Approximate bus travel times to/from Valparaiso:
Some cruise ships dock in Valparaiso, mostly as a part of some long South American itinerary.
The city "micros" are run by Transporte Metropolitano Valparaíso  (routes and fares can be found under "Empresas" on the website).
"Colectivos" are taxis (painted in black with yellow rooftops) that run on fixed routes, and are a very common mode of transport between (and inside of) Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, and other surrounding areas. The cost of the trip, while more expensive than the bus or metro, depends upon the distance being traveled following a system of zones. There are also regular taxis that do custom rides, but they are less common and more expensive. These type of taxis often congregate in the area around the Plaza Anibal Pinto.
The recently-completed subway/train system called Metro Valparaíso or Merval runs along the coast, starting at Valparaiso's port and heading to Viña del Mar and other, more rural locales. It provides fast access to major places of interest, and is only slightly more expensive than taking public buses. You need a special card ($1000 at any station) to travel by metro.
A unique method of transportation in Valparaiso is the "ascensores", cable cars that go up and down the steep hills leading away from the ocean (similar to the inclines in Pittsburgh). (See photo near the top of this page.) They are for the most part old and creaky, but generally reliable. The fare is slightly higher going up than down, and they offer gorgeous views of the cityscape, port, and Pacific Ocean.
Going to Valparaiso and not going on the ascensores (inclines) is like going to Venice and not taking a ride on a Gondola, only that the ascensores cost as little as 300 Chilean Pesos (around 60 US cents). They are also of practical use as they help many local people get to the higher parts of town, saving them from having to walk otherwise long and steep pedestrian routes.
The universities of Valparaiso are:
Many international students study at the Catholic University and the University of Valparaiso.
Valparaiso, to its charm, is not a city of malls and department stores. While several large grocery stores are present, most other shopping is done in smaller, non-chain stores tucked in along crowded city streets, or with street vendors; larger chain stores (and more upscale goods) are more commonly found in nearby Viña del Mar. A large shopping center, however, is found on the eastern end of Avenida Brasil.
The most traditional food in Valparaiso is the Chorrillana, a heaping mound of french fries topped with steak, onion, and eggs. You can eat this in the traditional restaurant J Cruz. Fresh seafood is readily available in many small restaurants around the city, especially around the muelle (wharf) areas, and is considered a must for any seafood lover. Neighboring Viña del Mar features a much larger (and more expensive) variety of international cuisines, including Thai, Mexican, and Argentine.
Bakeries are located on nearly every block, and produce quite delicious breads that can be had warm and right out of the oven at almost any time throughout the day. They are best enjoyed smothered with palta, which are grown en masse in Chile (palta is the Chilean word for avocado, known in most other Spanish-speaking countries as aguacate). In addition to the many types of bread, another widely available snack to keep you settled as you walk the streets are empanadas, a flaky pastry, almost like a croissant, filled with meat or cheese.
On the second floor of the Mercado Cardonal (cnr Ave Brasil and Uruguay) there are a few excellent, cheap and midrange restaurants serving lunch.
Cafe Turri Paseo Gervasoni (by the ascensor conception) great views and good food
On weekends, the time to go out for a drink (Chilean people call it "salir de carrete") starts no earlier than midnight, though somewhat earlier during the week. The pubs and clubs close at 5 AM on weekends, and 4 AM on weekdays.
Drinking alcohol in the streets is not allowed and 18 years is the minimum age for drinking alcohol, though enforcement of these rules is somewhat lax. If you are under 18, you may not be allowed entry into some pubs.
Chile is a major wine-producing country, and bottles of fairly tasty wines can be had for slightly more than US$1.
Many clubs and bars are also found in Viña del Mar. Public transportation and taxis continue to run throughout the night, making it entirely feasible to have accommodations in one city while going out for the night in the other.
In the context of Chile being a relatively safe country, Valparaiso is amongst its more dangerous locales, like many harbour cities around the world. Mainly, watch out for pickpockets, for instance avoid hanging your purse or bag in the back of your chair when seated, because it may get stolen. Violent crime is not common, but normal precautionary measures should be taken; while in the street, do not display expensive jewelry. The port area (called "Puerto") is generally considered to be dangerous at night.