Valparaíso & Viña del Mar

12 – 18 September

For the past three weeks (since I arrived in Argentina) I have been riding along the Andes, always heading south, always keeping a more or less safe distance to the snowy peaks on my right hand side. It is about time to make a right turn and to head staight into the mountains in order to cross into Chile again…

The busride from Mendoza to Chile is spectacular as we work our way further and further up this dramatic mountain range before a long tunnel gets us across the border. The views are stunning and the weather could not be any better.

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Once we arrive in Chile we start going downhill again, passing snowy mountains, ski-resorts, icy rivers, green valleys and finally vineyards and palmtrees. The country looks very different down here and is nice and green compared to the dry desert I have experienced in San Pedro de Atacama (my first impression of Chile). Whereas Chile is more than 4000 km long (from north to south) it is possible to cross the entire country from east to west within three hours. And that is exactly what I have in mind – to hit the Chilean coast to see the Pacific again. After an ocean-withdrawl for about three months I get goosebumbs the moment I see this blue and endless body of water that I love so much!

When I arrive in Valparaíso and look at the map I figure that I can walk from the bus terminal to my host’s apartment. What the map does not indicate though are the 45 very steep hills that the city is built on, so it turns out to be quite a workout climbing up to the neighbourhood where Gabi lives, with all my luggage. It is an amazing apartment on the 27th floor with incredible views over the city and the ocean and Gabi proves herself to be a great host, so I have nothing to complain about…

Valparaíso is a really nice bohemian place with lovely views from the countless of hills, colourful buildings, lots of streetart and graffiti as well as a vibrant, alternative and arty kind of scene. Before the Panama canal was built it used to be one of the most important ports and places to stopover. Nowadays, the harbor still is massive and not only used for import/export purposes but also by cruise ships to dock.

The downside is that Valpo (as it is called by the locals) does not really have any city beaches. This is where Viña del Mar comes into play, the neighbouring city that not only features beautiful beaches but a completely different atmosphere as well. It is clean, posh and stylish, coming along with a large casino, high-end hotels and condos, fancy shopping malls and a pretty promenade.

I learn that those two cities don’t really like each other, probably due to the fact that they are so different and yet both so attractive at the same time, each in its individual way. I spend my days strolling around the city of Valpo and the beaches of Viña and realize that the combination of these two places results in the perfect package for me – I would not mind staying here for a while…

Coincidentally, my timing to cross into Chile again is absolutely perfect as Chile’s independence day is coming up. In other words, the entire country slowly but surely turns into a massive celebration and I get to experience various “fondas” (one in Valpo and one in Viña) together with Al, our hosts and some of their friends. A “fonda” basically is some sort of fun-fair with lots of food (mainly BBQs), drinks, music, dance and games. One of the most popular drinks is “terremoto” (transl. earthquake), a very sweet and scary looking drink based on fermented wine and pineapple ice-cream that makes you not only shake and shiver when drinking it but also afterwards, if you have had too many of those…

4 thoughts on “Valparaíso & Viña del Mar

  1. Valparaiso is one of my favourite places on the planet! I went for a night and stayed for a week and have been back at least twice. I love it there. Caroline and I went on a street art walking tour, which was awesome. I’m so, so glad you made it to there! And how awesome is that bus journey from Mendoza!?!? It’s surely one of the most stunning drives across a border in all of the world. If you go to Pucón, that’s where I lived with a family for a month as I started to learn Spanish. Te mando in abrazo, Germano!

    1. I can only agree – Valpo is amazing! When I left yesterday I thought: I could easily stay for another week, or month, or year…
      I would love to head further south to see all these beautiful places in southern Chile and Argentina but decided to safe that for another trip (a good reason to come back soon) and to start heading east from here. I know you love Buenos Aires and I cannot wait to get there for example. That way I will get to enjoy this stunning border crossing one more time.
      So many wonderful places to explore…so many tough decisions to make… 🙂
      Un abrazo muy fuerte!

      1. When you get back into Argentina, my favourite Melbec was ‘Saint Felicien’, so I can recommend trying a bottle of that if you haven’t done so already. ¡Suerte!

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