Travolution In Valparaíso
by Irina Kincherova
Multicolored houses, breathtaking views, unique street art, funiculars and the only trolleybuses in the country are what you can expect in Chile’s brightest city, Valparaiso. This picturesque city is located in the most important industrial port, also a very agricultural and tourist region in the country. It is just an hour and a half from the capital, on the central coast of Chile so if you plan to visit Santiago, Valparaíso is an absolute must to add to your travel plans. As you will see, it is a very atmospheric, contrasting city, with a rich history and architecture.
The city was founded by a Spanish conquistador Juan de Saavedra in 1536 (5 years before Santiago was founded). Supposedly, he named it after his birthplace, and, let’s agree, “Paradise Valley” is a pretty awesome name to give to a city you found.
Its natural amphitheater shape gives a democratic sense of the views to the sea. Everyone, independent of the social position, has views to the endless sea and the calm it provides. Well, not everyone! Some buildings were constructed against the regulation plan, taking away the benefits of the views and the warm of the sun. Today’s mayor is defending its regulation plan, avoiding big real estate companies monopolize the most important right of all, the sea.
“In Valparaiso, you happily get lost in the streets, because you know that the sea will take you home.”
One of the recent success stories is about Cerro Baron, where environmentalists won the fight for the return of the land allocated for the construction of a large shopping center on the coast near Cerro Baron. They were supposed to build another mall there, but now it will be one more park, with safe and easy access and lots of public space. Isn’t it a great solution to restore once abandoned coastal area and to recover the city’s heritage!?
Valparaiso, deservedly recognized in 2003 as the UNESCO World Heritage Site, spreads out as a spectacular amphitheater on 44 hills around the Pacific Ocean bay. The best way to discover the city is by walking around* those hills on a clear day with a camera in your hands. Here you can wander endlessly, get lost in the countless labyrinths of alleys and stairs, but surely you will end up discovering something new and interesting for yourself. As locals say, the sea will always guide you. Máximo Marín Vidal, a local poet, says, “In a typical city everything is flat, you have to follow the map not to get lost. But not here, in Valparaiso you happily get lost in the streets, because you know that the sea will take you home.”.
*Remember to bring some comfortable shoes. No need to use hiking shoes, just sneakers are fine.
WHAT TO DO IN VALPARAISO
There are quite a few places you can visit in Valparaiso. If walking around and learning about the patrimonial area of the city is not enough for you, how about trying a different type of tourism and meeting folks from the local community? With the tour we prepare for you in Travolution, apart from visiting the oldest temple in Valparaiso and other historical sights, we’ll learn about the social work carried out by volunteers to help homeless and other projects organized by the local community. Like any ecotourism experience, community-based tour is an amazing opportunity for you to learn about the authentic life in Valparaiso, talk to locals while sharing a meal with them. That is a cultural experience not everybody is fortunate to have.
Valpo is all about community. Visiting the city as a “normal” tourist, it’s hard to realize it, but with a community-based tour you’ll see that Valparaiso lives for community and thanks to it. They do street art, often dedicating paintings to neighbors (like their favorite newsagent’s seller), they organize public spaces like “Punto X” to have a place to bring things you don’t use for others who need them more, they build gardens and take care of it as a community as part of a huge program called “Food independence”: people in Valparaiso don’t want to depend that much on supermarkets and its continuously growing prices, and instead, they want to create a food chain supply from gardens directly to the kitchen table. These are only a few of fantastic ideas realized by locals for locals.
Valparaiso for sure is a place no traveler should miss when visiting Chile. We would be more than happy to organize the trip for you and tell you everything we know about the place and life of the communities. Contact us here for more details.
HOW TO ADD MORE VALUE TO YOUR TRIP TO VALPARAISO
Here are just a few ideas of how you can help local communities. On your next trip there, you can:
- collect some of the clothes you don’t use and bring them to Punto X;
- bring some seeds and water for the gardens;
- donate to local canteens who serve homeless people;
- share your ideas on how to make the life of the community better.
- and, as always, be a responsible tourist, drink from a reusable water bottle, buy things in a market, and respect people, plants and animals.