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Chile is a dream travel destination for outdoor adventurers, foodies, and culture lovers. This long and narrow country has enormous mountains, big cities, and quaint villages. But one destination that is always a top pick among travelers is Valparaíso. This is Chile’s second-largest city and about an hour and a half north of Santiago. It’s a coastal town, one that’s filled with history, and a bohemian destination you’ll fall in love with. Here are some of the top things to do when you visit Valparaíso.
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To get your bearings in Valparaíso and get a feeling for what the city is all about, start your first day of exploration with a walking tour. As you make your way through town, you’ll get a unique mix of culture, history, seaside views, and gastronomy. You can tour ancient palaces, see historical mansions, and marvel at the architecture. If it’s your first time in Valparaíso, you might opt for a guided walking tour that lasts for a few hours and takes you to all the best places with a local guide. End your tour with a delicious Chilean-style “alfajor” cookie!
Chilean cuisine is absolutely delicious, which is another major reason why travelers visit Valparaíso. You can definitely eat your way through the city by visiting the many awesome restaurants here. Or for a more hands-on approach, sign up for a Chilean cooking class to learn more about the flavors and cooking styles. This is a great way to learn about the local culture and learn some new skills you can take back home with you. Top foods to eat and perhaps try making yourself in Valparaíso include ceviche, charquican, and alfajores Chilena. Some cooking classes include a market tour as well to stock up on ingredients.
A scenic and popular area of Valparaíso is Cerro Conception, which has lots of art galleries, trendy coffee shops, and cute stores to explore. It is a neighborhood set on rolling hills, which means amazing views of the surrounding landscape too. The neighborhood has a quirky and bohemian vibe that is marked by colorful art and narrow streets. Just expect to be walking up steep roads and stairs as you get your exercise for the day!
The Valparaíso area is also home to a wonderful wine scene, and you can experience this yourself in the Casablanca Valley. There are some amazing vineyards near the city and guide companies that will take you on half-day tours here. Visit a few vineyards for tastings and to learn about the winemaking process in the region. Since you’ll be visiting multiple wine sites, it’s best to arrange for transportation with easy hotel pickup and drop-off so you don’t have to worry about driving.
Valparaíso is also known for its street art, which tells stories about local culture and events. The local government typically supports street art, so it’s easy to find it on the sides of lots of city bars, restaurants, and cafes. Some good places to see the colorful murals include the hills of Carcel, Alegre, Pateon, and Bellavista. There’s even an open-air street art museum in Bellavista.
But it would be a shame to spend all your time in the city and not experience the rugged nature outside Valparaíso. A great place to do this is at nearby Biosphere Reserve La Campana National Park. The park is about an hour and a half from the city, which means you might want to join a guided hiking group if you don’t rent a car. Guided hiking experiences here last for about 10 hours and include transportation, an experienced guide, hiking stick, communication radio, and snacks. At the mountaintop, you can see the Andes Mountains and the coast of the Pacific Ocean.
In the summer, it’s also fun to take a surfing lesson in Valparaíso because of the area’s great beaches. Some beginner surfing lesson experiences even include additional activities, like horseback riding and meals, to help you effortlessly plan a full day of fun. One top surf area that’s easy to get to from Valparaíso is Reñaca, which has good waves for beginners through experienced surfers. Papagayo and the north and south sides of Easter Island are also great for surfing.
Valparaíso is also home to lots of great museums, which are worth a visit on your trip to learn about the local history and culture. For example, there’s the Isla Negra Museum where you can learn about the life and works of writer and poet Pablo Neruda. Other top museums to visit are the Museo de Historia Natural de Valparaiso, Palacio Baburizza, and La Sebastiana. To learn about the maritime history of the region, check out the Museo Maritimo Nacional.
Meanwhile, many other people travel to Chile for the snow sports because of the epic mountains this country has. When you visit Valparaíso in the winter, consider spending a full day at the Portillo Ski Resort, which is about a three-hour drive from the city. It’s a bit of a trek, but for snow-lovers, there’s something really magical about getting to ski and go to the beach on the same day. The slopes here are truly beautiful and challenging.
On warmer days, you might go horseback riding near Valparaíso when you are in this part of Chile. This is a great way to experience the Chilean countryside and have an adventure in the Quebrada Escobares mountains. Book a ride in either in the morning or the afternoon with a small group. All skill levels of riders are welcome on tours, which last about two and a half hours and include all the equipment and instruction you’ll need to enjoy some time with your horse for the day.