Valparaíso is the second largest metro area in Chile, a major port city, and home to the country’s naval headquarters and legislative congress. Aside from being one of Chile’s important hubs, Valparaíso is a World Heritage City full of vibrant streets, great food and wine, and unique history. If you’re exploring the area around Santiago and want to see more of the coast, consider making a stop in Valparaíso! Here’s a city guide to help you plan a visit.
Getting to Valparaíso
Because Valparaíso is a large hub, it is pretty easy to reach. The closest major airport is in Santiago. Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benitez serves various airlines and flights from other Chilean cities and from many international locations, like Spain, Peru, the U.S., Brazil, and more.
Buses from Santiago to Valparaíso leave every 15-30 minutes daily with various companies. Frequency, price, and hours vary between days and operators. Some of the popular companies include Turbus, Pullman, and Condor. There are limited buses to Valparaíso directly from the airport. Otherwise, buses mainly depart from the Pajaritos and Alameda bus terminals in Santiago. It takes about 1h40m-2h to reach Valparaíso by bus.
Most of our time in South America, we bought our tickets the day before or the day of at the terminal. However, if you are tight on time and are visiting during high season, it may be better to buy a ticket at the station several days in advance or online when possible.
There are also many car rental agencies in Santiago if you’d like the flexibility and comfort of having your own transport. We chose not to rent a car because we could reach everywhere we wanted by public transport and car rentals were more expensive than buses. Many companies charged more or did not permit rentals at all to individuals under 25 years old, which we were at the time.
Once in Valparaíso, we think the best way to explore is on foot. Though the city sprawls into the hills surrounding the coast, much of the city highlights, restaurants, and hotels sit in and just around the heart of the city.
Many of the streets are steep and some of the attractions you may want to see lie outside the city center. There are ample taxis and buses to take you around if needed. The main bus terminal in Valparaíso is Terminal Rodoviario, but buses hit various stops in the city. We walked around for most of our time here but used a public bus to reach a vineyard outside Valparaíso for a wine tour.
When to Visit Valparaíso
The most popular time to visit Valparaíso is in November and December. This is late spring/early summer in the southern hemisphere when temperatures are mildly warm and rain is infrequent. The summer months are best for visiting beaches and vineyards, which are two large draws to this destination. During the peak months, prices are higher and the city is busier.
We visited in June (winter), and weather was still pleasant, though too cold for the beach. Valparaíso doesn’t receive too much rain throughout the year and we enjoyed the many sunny days. The vines at the vineyards had all lost their leaves, leaving the grounds a dull brown. But we were more interested in learning about the process of making the wine than touring the grounds anyway and still really enjoyed our vineyard visit.
Though summer is generally considered the ideal time to visit this coastal city, we think Valparaíso can be enjoyed any time of year!
Where to Stay
Valparaíso has a range of accommodation for any traveler, from hostels to boutique hotels. Here are some great options in the city.
La Casa Azul Hostel: Dorms and single rooms with shared bathrooms and included breakfast.
La Casa Piola: Double rooms with shared bathrooms and included breakfast.
Hostal Po: Dorms with shared bathrooms and double rooms with private bathrooms.
Fortunata Chacana Guest House:Double to king rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Casa California Guesthouse: Double rooms with private bathrooms and breakfast available.
Augusta Hotel: Studio with equipped kitchen and included breakfast.
Zero Hotel: Double rooms to suites with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Hotel Casa Higueras: Double to deluxe rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Hotel Casa Somerscales: Double rooms with private bathrooms and included breakfast.
Where to Eat in Valparaíso
Valparaíso has many restaurants offering a variety of cuisine. Being on the coast, seafood is very popular. Some great places to get some fresh seafood include Portofino for fine dining with a view, Café Turri, Cocina Puerto, and Como en Casa. There are also markets around the coast that sell fresh seafood to take and cook if you have the option.
If you’re looking to try other Chilean dishes, visit Café Vinilo for meat dishes and wine or La Moneda de Oro for soups and beef dishes. Other varied cuisine options to consider include Casa Dumplings, Nazca Restaurante for Peruvian, Il Paparazzo and Habrakadabra (cheaper option) for Italian, or Ñamburger.
For cafes and simple bites, check out La Panera Café, Color Café, Restaurant El Pimentón, and Crysol Café. For tasty empanadas, definitely head to Delicias Express. We also encountered many food stands while walking around the city serving crepes, empanadas, churros, and more.
There are a couple large supermarkets in Valparaíso, including Lider and Provimarket. These sell fruits and veggies, meats, bread, and more along with basic household items and toiletries. There are also many tiendas and smaller markets around the city selling snacks, water, and other basic items.
There are many activities in Valparaíso that can be done without a tour. But if you’d like to learn more about the city’s history, hit some of the highlights, visit vineyards, or adventure around some of the coastal areas near Valparaíso, tours are a great option!
There are free city walking tours with various companies, including Strawberry Tours and Tours 4 Tips. There are also many other paid tours that include information historical moments and figures, museum and market visits, stops at pretty vistas, visits to neighboring towns, etc. The many options ensure that you can get the most of your Valparaíso experience.
Many hotels, restaurants, shops, and other establishments in Valparaíso take card. However, some smaller places may only accept cash. So, we recommend carrying some Chilean pesos on you when out and about. For markets and smaller restaurants, it is best to have smaller denominations.
There are several ATMs around the city, many of which are located just inside or right outside of a bank. Fees may vary depending on your bank policies and the specific ATM.
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