Located within day-tripping distance of Santiago, Valparaiso & Viña del Mar are two of Chileans’ favorite getaways from the sprawling capital. Proximity aside, however, these two cities couldn’t be more different.
Valparaiso, in the words of Pablo Neruda, is a bohemian town “in shirtsleeves,/in long underpants with colorful fringes/naked, with a name/tattooed on its belly.” For centuries Chile’s principal port, it’s a jumble of pastel-colored houses and kaleidoscopic street art perched on the slopes of the surrounding hills, with a freewheeling vibe that whispers softly, “life is good.” Hundred-year-old elevators lift you to the top of the cerros, while on the way down salty dive bars and crazy alleys beckon you to stop and explore.
By contrast, neighboring Viña del Mar is a modern beach resort, with broad boulevards and lush public parks. Nicknamed “the Garden City,” it’s a mecca for vacationing Santiaguinos during the summer, when its beaches and luxury hotels fill with sunbathers and hard-partying professionals seduced by its cool breezes and ocean side views. Botanical gardens showcase the region’s flora, while elegant old mansions conceal archaeological and artistic treasures.
Viña and Valparaiso are home to some of Chile’s most spectacular festivals. Every year Viña hosts an international “Festival de la Canción” that draws top pop and folk acts from throughout Latin America, while Valparaiso’s “New Year’s by the Sea” boasts the continent’s biggest fireworks display. Both offer ample testimony to the vibrant, festive spirit that circulates through the streets of these charming seaside escapes.
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