Valparaiso is one of Chile’s better-kept secrets – but the word is getting out fast, so get there soon before a tourist invasion changes the city irrevocably! “Valpo”, as it’s affectionately known, is a chaotic and colourful jumble of cobblestoned streets and ramshackle colonial buildings that tumble down the hillsides in faded glory. Antique ascensores (funicular railways) creak their way up the precipitous hills that dot the city, and vivid splashes of paint on every building make the city a photographer’s dream.
Tourists who like to travel with a “must see” list of sights to check off may find staying in a Valparaiso hostel unsatisfactory, as there’s not a lot to “do” around the city in the usual tourist sense – the real charm of this UNESCO World Heritage city comes from wandering the streets and soaking in the atmosphere. Perhaps it’s a legacy from the likes of Pablo Neruda (who had a house here) and his artistic contemporaries, but Valpo gives off a distinctly bohemian vibe – anything goes here.
Valparaiso is not all pretty architecture and dramatic scenery – it has its share of shantytowns, and crime can be a problem in some areas. However, most visitors choose Valparaiso hostels and activities close to the center of the city and don’t experience any problems.
Transit connections to the rest of Chile are good, with the more sedate and sophisticated seaside resort of Vina del Mar just a few kilometres away, and the capitol Santiago about two hours away by bus. Valparaiso hostels are mostly found uphill from the port, in the steep and winding streets that offer breathtaking views over the city.