Valparaiso has been the most colorful, culture packed destination Ive had the privilege to explore. For good reason it was recognized by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2003 and has even been nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific.”
Even with all the hype, people continue to pass through Santiago without checking out this quaint little port town.
I’m not just talking about the blanket of graffiti that covers the city. Within a 5 minute walk you will come across live bands, hippies juggling knives and other street artists.
Every city has its word and Valparaiso’s is liberation.
The dogs of Valpo are a huge part of the experience. The energy they bring matches the city: carefree with a full heart.
Every single stray has a name, is respected, and is part of the Valparaiso family. Don’t underestimate their loyalty; if you decide to give extra love through extensive pets or sharing your meal be prepared to have a friend with you for the rest of day.
Speaking of sharing, the locals are the most giving people I’ve encountered. Yearning to laugh, drink, and share any random talents with you. Coming across 10 new friends a night is normal.
Every night at Plaza Descansol the locals unite with the tourists creating music, joining in dance, reverting back to childhood through fun and games. Imagine a circus camp and you’ll have the right image. Bring a bottle of wine or beer, yerba mate if you don’t drink, and get ready for a night filled with entertainment and tons of laughter.
The city is full of surprises; every corner you turn will be a new mural, a small bakery, or a beautiful park. I highly recommend the city cemetery and the old jailhouse turned into the cultural center. Don’t forget your camera and your journal. Inspiration is bound to strike.
Walk! The journey is more than half the fun. If you are short on time or just worn out from all the fun, the second best mode of transportation is the city bus. It is extremely cheap, ranging from 160 pesos to 540, and you don’t need a bus card.
There are free walking tours everyday (free as in tip based) that give you a lot of great information on the history of the city. However, with me always being on a budget, I decided to take a day to let my heart be my tour guide and get lost in the city.
Know the areas you’re walking in being that petty street crimes are high on the outskirts of the city. Don’t have your camera out and do your best to dress down. At nights travel in groups and only take what you can keep hidden or don’t want to loose. It’s a disappointing fact but pickpocketing and blatant robbery happens pretty often. Nothing violent, mostly they’ll grab your bag/fanny pack/wallet, or check your pockets.
Pregame on the steps, meet the locals, share your drink, and be open to spontaneous activity. Trust me on this one. However, if you’re drinking outside keep your bottle or can as discreet as possible. You can be fined, though it doesn’t happen often.
Read the posters. Almost every day there’s something worthwhile happening. Many are free, and the others are extremely cheap. I once found a tattoo convention and got a medium sized detailed tattoo for under $30 USD.
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