We finally had some sunshine this weekend and I took a trip to the nearby seaside cities, Valparaiso and Vina del Mar. Geoff and I met up with Mirko, a native Valparaisian whose aunt gave us a ride into Santiago the first week – just a testament to the kindness of strangers here! Mirko was awesome and spent all day taking us around both cities. Here’s what we found:
Valpo was charming and stunning, full of the traditional colors and architecture that was so different from Santiago. There were very few high-rises and the streets were quiet, especially up in the hills. Mirko told us to come back for New Years in Valparaiso because the hills rising up around the sea makes for a natural amphitheater for the fireworks show. Valpo is also famous for the ascensores, or almost vertical lifts that bring you up the steep hills. The view from the tops were gorgeous!
While Valpo has suffered from a down economy, I think due to its proximity to Santiago, charming feel, cheaper cost of living, not to mention the smog-free air, it can really become an entrepreneurial hub for Chile – a sort of Silicon Valley to Santiago. Especially because the technical institute is located there as well. The only thing missing is a high-speed rail line connecting it to Santiago. Unfortunately given the costs and the lack of local funding, that doesn’t seem to be in the works any time soon. Nonetheless, it was a breath of fresh air to visit!
Vina was a much different feel – much more modern, sleek and the typical resort town. But I found myself liking Vina more than I had expected. Rather than being overly commercial, the boardwalk has its own charm and a distinctive Chilean flavor. The handmade churros, teens on tightropes and artisan market definitely helped!