Valparaiso is located on the coast of Chile’s Central Valley Region. The California gold rush was the catalyst which built Valparaiso into the greatest port in the South Pacific…at least temporarily. In order to reach the California coast, ships had to circumnavigate the Cape of Good Hope. Valparaiso was a stopping point to and from California. Many European immigrants found their gold here. The architecture attests to their skills and ideas. The completion of the Panama Canal was the beginning of the end of the Valparaiso golden age.
John and I arrived in Valparaiso for a quick three day visit. Today we went on a Tours 4 Tips. Select your time (10:00 or 3:00) and meet at a designated place. No reservations needed. At the end of the
tour, you pay whatever you think the tour was worth. No pressure. Our guide, Alanzo, began by giving our group of ten a quick lay of the land. Part of Valparaiso’s beauty is its geographical make-up of 45 hills. Homes are built top to bottom. Thirty funiculars (only nine still function) were built to move people up and down the hills (cerros).
The trolley buses were bought from the US in the 1950’s. They were made from the metal from WWII airplanes. During the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, these buses fell into decay. But, after Pinochet stepped down, a private group refurbished the buses and put them back in service.
Because Valparaiso is a UNESCO World Heritage city, 100 year old buildings in disrepair can’t be torn down. Only a natural disaster can bring down the building, which isn’t inconceivable since Valparaiso is earthquake prone. Graffiti adorns every building, the artists’ favorite canvases are these decaying edifices. Here are a few of the murals:
Business owners actually commission these outdoor artists to paint a mural on their walls in order to prevent tagging.
Beaches share the coastline with shipping containers and Chile’s navy.
Our time in Valparaiso is coming to an end, but so much more remains to be seen. Valparaiso is only a short hour bus ride from Santiago so a return visit is in order.