When I was 12, my family moved to Valparaiso, IN. Locals like to call it “Valpo”. It’s not an exciting place, but it was named after Valparaíso, Chile, which Chileans also like to call “Valpo”. Naturally, one of the first places I wanted to visit in Chile was Valpo.
Valparaíso (the Chilean version) is one of those places that really doesn’t have a home-run attraction. This UNESCO World Heritage listed city is a place that’s better to get lost in, wandering the streets for hours, discovering colorful little alleys and pathways on every hill in town. You don’t need to worry about time here. Valparaíso itself is the attraction, especially the hills in the historic part of the city – Cerro Concepción, Cerro Alegre, Cerro Cordillera, Cerro Artillería, and Cerro Panteón.
How did I get there? I jumped on the red line in Santiago and headed to the Pajaritos stop. The stop exits right at a small bus station with service to Valpo and Viña del Mar (right next door to Valparaíso). I used the Pullman bus company and paid CLP $4,000 (about $8) for a very comfortable window seat on a very empty bus. 90 minutes later, we rolled into the main bus station in Valparaíso. It seems like buses leave for Valpo every 15-30 minutes.
The bus terminal is in Barrio El Almendral, about a 20 minute walk from the historic part of the city. While most of Valpo is hilly, the area around the bus station all the way to the historic area is flat and has lots of cheap hotels. I don’t recommend staying there. It’s very seedy, there are barely any attractions of note, and there isn’t much to do at night (especially for decent food). Chances are, you will want to spend most of your time in the historic area.
La Casa del Puerto
For this trip, I stayed in a brand new hostel. La Casa del Puerto is located in an large old home a little uphill in the historic area. The location is phenomenal and it has a nice rooftop terrace with sun chairs. The room was very comfortable and clean, and the bathroom was spotless. There is a nice kitchen if you want to save money and eat in. I paid US$20 per night and the hostel only accepts cash (like many hotels/hostels in Valpo). It was a very good value for the location.
HOWEVER! While that may be enough to warrant staying there under normal circumstances, I would highly recommend you find a better place to stay. La Casa del Puerto was a work in progress. That means it was literally a construction zone. Half of the building was a complete mess with construction materials all over the place. The staff was nonexistent. There was no organization, no rules, and no quiet hours. The first night was great, but the next two, I wasn’t sure if I was in a frat house or a hostel.
On night #2, there was construction going on, music being played loudly, and chatting until almost 5am. The light in the hallway was on and blasting through the window above the door right into my face all night. I turned it off twice, but it was turned right back on. On night #3, I came back to a very quiet hostel at midnight and went to sleep. An hour later, about 30 people walked in and set up DJ equipment on the rooftop – right above my room – and had a party until 5am. I obviously wasn’t going to sleep, so I joined the party. Well, not really. I sat in the corner and drank their alcohol until it was enough to make me sleep without hearing the music.
This sums up what I had to put up with during my stay at La Casa del Puerto:
On my second trip to Valpo, I stayed with a friend at ViaVia Café. It’s a restaurant and small designer hotel. The room was clean, comfortable, and quiet. Breakfast was very nicely done, and the staff was amazing. I would highly recommend a stay there, and the location is excellent. Guests also get a 10% discount in the restaurant, which features Chilean and Belgian dishes (the owner is from Belgium).
Getting around Valparaíso is very easy. Most of the attractions are reachable on foot, and there are several ascensores, or funiculars, that get you uphill in seconds. They cost CHP 100 each way and save you a lot of energy, plus they are a really interesting way to get around. You always pay the attendant at the bottom of the hill.
The bus system is very easy to use. Just hop on and pay the driver. No matter where you go, one person pays less than CLP $500. You can easily get to Viña and the beaches using a bus (but the beaches can take up to an hour each way in traffic).
If you’re looking to get to Viña del Mar, there’s a metro line that runs along the coast and gets there in about 15-20 minutes. You have to buy a metro card and the cost is variable depending on trip length and time of day. You swipe the card on your way in and out of the metro. If you don’t have enough to get out, you can pay the attendant to top up your card. Chances are you won’t use the metro unless you decide to go to Viña.
Getting back to Santiago is just as easy as getting into Valpo. Buses leave frequently, and again I used Pullman and paid CHP $4,000. I was dropped off at Pajaritos, but service does continue to the main bus station. I found it faster to get off at Pajaritos and jump on the metro.