View of Valparaiso from Pablo Neruda's house

Chile's second largest city, Valparaiso (or Valpo for short), is undoubtedly its single most distinctive city. It occupies a narrow wave cut terrace along the coast and rises up the overhanging cliffs and hills. It consists colorful barrios and shantytowns that cover the hills and are linked to the city center by meandering roads, footpaths, and ascensores ( funicular elevators).

El Plan

The commercial center, known as El Plan, lies on the narrow but flat sliver of land along the waterfront. The major streets run parallel to the shoreline and contain the business district, shopping streets, market areas and plazas.

A street in El Plan

Hills of Valparaiso

The barrios on the surrounding hills are reached using the ascensores, 15 were built between 1883 and 1916, and strolling the back alleys. Some of them are feats of engineering rising steeply on hillsides and sometimes through tunnels.

Each ascensor has its own unique operating hours and and the price of the ride also varies. They are typically run by characterful old folk who have been collecting change and pulling levers all their lives.


Cerro Concepcion is a pleasant neighborhood that has wall-to-wall two storey houses that have brightly painted corrugated iron fascades and pitched roofs.

We stayed at Hostal Luna Sonrisa on the adjacent Cerro Alegre. It is a UNESCO world heritage site with its historic mansions and fine walks and views. There are dozens of cafes with plentiful art galleries, street art and workshops as well as friendly bars and innovative restaurants.

La Sebastiana

La Sebastiana is one of poet Pablo Neruda's three quirky homes that have been converted into museums honoring the distinguished Nobel laureate's work and life. Neruda is Chile's most beloved poet, and its most famous literary export. Earlier in the trip, we had visited Neruda's other famous home, La Chascona, in Santiago.

This museum is worth visiting to explore this eccentric home and view the whimsical knickknacks he relished collecting while traveling, which are fascinating for adults and kids alike. Neruda called himself an "estuary sailor"; although terrified of sailing, he nevertheless was spellbound by the sea, and he fashioned his homes to resemble boats, complete with porthole windows. And, of course, he was El Capitan.


The walls of the city's hills were full of massive colorful murals (mostly anonymous) and interesting graffiti.

Cielo Abierto

During the early 1970s Professor Francisco Méndez of the Institute of Art at the Catholic University of Valparaiso conducted workshops on mural painting. In collaboration with other authorities in the city, arrangements were made for a series of murals on appropriate walls in the Bellavista Hill neighborhood. Between 1969 and 1973, a number of artists participated by creating the murals. Since that time, the Catholic University of Valparaiso has continued to maintain the works, often fighting against defacing graffiti. These works form a integral treasure that contributes to the artistic heritage of Valparaiso. The tradition has continued, with later murals expanding the scope beyond the original collection. 

Valparaiso Photo Album 
Cielo Abierto Photo Album