After a few days in Santiago, we needed to get out of that city. Too often, big, landlocked cities leave me feeling claustrophobic and parched. We’d heard great stuff about Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Pichilemu. Shame we weren’t here for the surf because Pichi is world class, so we struck out for both V-towns which are only a few hours bus ride away. Our mistake though, was wasting time in Viña. Unless you’re looking for crowded beaches, touristy boulevards overrun by families and drunk college kids, don’t even bother. Save your pesos.
Valparaiso is big, grimy, and proudly blue-collar. Its still a major port city, though well past its prime. In its hey day, the victorian architecture must have been a true sight. In its present shape, it feels tired and rundown. The port district near Playa Ancha felt a bit dodgy but if you can manage to look alert and not dangle an expensive camera around your neck, you should be fine. We were stopped every block or so by concerned locals warning us to keep our cameras tucked inside our coats. Bless them lovely costeñas for looking out for our well-being. Keep your wits about you, and venture into the local barrios. The city exudes culture and charm, and some of the tastiest little hole in the wall restaurants await. Some fantastic graffiti brightens up the otherwise faded facades. Stop into Carampangue right around the corner from the Ascenor Artillería. They’ve got an amazing michelada and do seafood right. From ceviche de Reineta, to sopa marinera, to camarones Pil Pil, everything tastes fresh, flavorful, and is quite affordable. We scarfed down a heaping of braised mollusks which has a tendency to be overcooked. Our chef nailed it. It didn’t break our budget either. We’re talking less than $5 – 8 USD per plate. Afterwards, take the ascensor up the hill. Walk around the top of the hill. Panoramic views abound. Definitely walk back down the hill stopping along the way to take more pics. On your way out of town is another great plaza right across from the central bus terminal. Live music, street performers and food vendors abound. We enjoyed grilled chorizo kebabs while Vanessa downed a flaky cheese empanada, and no, we did not get sick.
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