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  • Valparaiso, The Most Important Port of Chile

    Valparaiso view ©Fernando Valenzuela/flickr

    Valparaiso view ©Fernando Valenzuela/flickr

    Valparaiso view ©Fernando Valenzuela/flickr


    Valparaiso was considered for a very long time “the pearl of the Pacific”. The city has a troublesome history. 

    Pablo Neruda knew why he choose one of the 50 hills of the city. The poet already had a house in Santiago and a villa at a beach on an Island called Isla Negra. It is situated about 80 km at large, when he came back from exile in 1952, being rich and famous, he moved there.

    But the most important fact is that this man was so obsessed with ships. It must have been an impressive panorama of the port and the city scene from La Florida hill. Even nowadays the tourists and the poet’s fans cross through every obstacle just to see the place.

    The houses are  colored with lively colors, they seemingly appear like being attached to the steep hills and being pulled out from the waters of the Pacific. The strip of soil is so steep that it required soil to be brought from other places to build the city center.

    In 1536 at the gulf a settlement was established because of its good anchoring position by Spanish conquistador Juan de Saavedra. He named the place after his hometown and birthplace from Spain. The hills around offered natural protection against the winds of the south.

    When the Dealers come

    The small post was in a disadvantaged position for a long time because of the Spanish toll system. The situation however changed when the independence was claimed in 1818. Merchants started to appear in Valparaiso, maritime lines connected the city with Europe, and the port soon became a staging point for ships. At the same time the Chilean marine base was formed.

    However, the golden age ended in 1914  when the Panama Canal was built. With the existence of the Canal it was not necessary anymore that the ships sailed around South America. With time, however, Valparaiso has become the most important port of modern Chile.

    Plaza Sotomayor @ffuentes

    Plaza Sotomayor @ffuentes

    There is something reminding of the past at every corner. The smaller piers of the port are quite melancholic, painted especially in yellow, filled with many wooden fishing boats on the coast.

    As picturesque and fantastic the city is, it suffered much and was always tested by fate for a long time. Few of the old colonial era buildings survived the devastating storms, pirate raids and earthquakes.

    An example is after 1906, the biggest part of Valparaiso required reconstruction, and the 1971 earthquake brought much damage. Despite all these catastrophic events, there are still some buildings of Victorian and Neoclassical style.

    In the early 20th century, Valparaiso was called “The Pearl of the Pacific”. Today, with over 20 luxury hotels, busy life, intense commerce, and with an international airport, the city has become a popular tourist destination and even surpassed the more colorful Santiago.

    The Old District with its Inclined Streets

    The modern Valparaiso, with its transportation facilities, immense deposits, commercial arteries and many banks is practically an extension of the port. The points of interest are places like Plaza Sotomayor, it is surrounded by administrative buildings.

    Nearby lies the city’s cathedral, some parks, large boulevards, the theater and many cafes one after the other. Wandering around the area you may discover Valparaiso’s trademark streets with some old colonial buildings and also the famous La Matriz church which is worth a visit.

    Merchants fill the streets of the market during the day with their merchandise. On the other side at Muelle Prat, indigenous artists and women exhibit their work on weekend.

    One can admire the splendor of Valparaiso from all along the sea as the city’s beautiful streets are parallel with the ocean. On the hills and city center there is a different atmosphere.

    It has a medieval feeling, with steep passages, narrow alleys and winding roads that you can climb through. You must be born here to not get lost and even the best maps would barely help you.

    Los Ascensores cabins @javierrubilar

    Los Ascensores cabins @javierrubilar

    Among the mentioned facilities, the best way to visit Valparaiso is with its own unique elevators called Los Ascensores. These are cabins being pulled on rails by a cable. For only a few pesos these cabins can ease the fatigue of climbers and help those who do not want to get lost. Initially there were 28 cabins, built between 1883 and 1932, each of them being true engineering masterpieces.

    With the help of these cabins, you can visit more easily the more hilly parts of the city. The hilly streets are too steep.




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