Valparaiso:Pablo Neruda ‘life has always surprised you’


So I finally made it to Valparaiso, a city on the coast of Chile less than two hours from Santiago by bus.

I’d been putting off this trip for a long time. Much as I wanted to go, I either didn’t wake up early enough or I just couldn’t motivate myself to get moving in the morning (I am turning into my father now; I have found myself saying things like ‘if we don’t get on the road early then it’s not worth going’).

Finally it took my imminent departure from Chile to push me into action.

Valparaiso is reminiscent of La Boca in Buenos Aires, with brightly coloured houses of varying styles and height, often made with boat-building materials salvaged from the port.

After falling into disrepair over the last century and being deserted by wealthier residents, the city is now enjoying a renascence as a cultural/bohemian destination.

Pablo Neruda, Chile’s favourite poet, had a house in Valparaiso overlooking the sea (La Sebastiana; you can visit it) and he wrote of Valparaiso:

‘You haven’t combed your hair,

You’ve never had time to get dressed,

Life has always surprised you’.


View from the terrace at Pablo Neruda’s house.  The house itself is fascinating and costs £6/US$8 to go inside (they don’t allow photos inside the house).

One thing Valparaiso is famous for is the street art. You can wander up into the hills and look around, or if you’re interested in learning more about the various artists whose work you are looking at you can take a tour. I went with a company called Valpo Street Art, who do these tours twice a day  (Free of charge – you tip whatever you think is appropriate).


Residents are often keen to get some artwork on their walls, if for no other reason than to keep off the tagging.  Artwork rarely gets and significant graffiti on top of it, unlike plain walls, which are usually covered in tags.

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There are lots of steps to climb in Valparaiso, or if you are lucky you will find a funicular working; this rickety wooden box carries you up the steep inclines for a few hundred pesos.


This funicular didn’t seem to be working, never mind; you can always take the stairs…

In the end I stayed just two days. I would have stayed longer, but there were storms on the way and so I thought it best to get back to Santiago before they hit (as usual, I hadn’t brought appropriate clothes). Two days just barely scratches the surface of the city, however even two days in Valparaiso is better than no days at all.

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