Valparaiso (tours to Santiago), Chile cruises

Valparaiso, Jewel of the Pacific, is one of Chile’s biggest cities and is erected upon a cluster of 45 hills. It features cobblestoned alleyways, vibrant street art and a packed schedule of festivals.

Overlooked by the snow-capped Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, Santiago’s neoclassical landmarks include the 1808 Palacio de la Real Audiencia and the 18th-century Metropolitan Cathedral.

In the 19th century, Valparaíso was the primary stopover port for ships making the journey between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. The most common route at this time was through the Magellan Strait, but once the Panama Canal was opened, ship traffic dropped significantly in the port of Valparaíso.

Over the past couple of decades, the city has undergone a cultural revival of sorts, and it is now a popular tourist attraction for visitors arriving from all around the world.

A Spanish ship named Santiaguillo first arrived in Valparaíso in 1536. The captain of the ship, Juan de Saavedra, named the town after his own village of Valparaíso de Arriba in Cuenca, Spain.

At the height of Valparaíso’s booming trade, it became a popular destination for immigrants arriving from Europe. As well as being called the Jewel of the Pacific, it also earned the nickname Little San Francisco, thanks to the similar climate of both cities, as well as the funiculars that trundle up and down the steep hills of Valparaíso.

These funaculars, known locally as ascensores, have been identified by the World Monuments Fund as one of the world’s 100 most endangered historical treasures. There are a number of ascensores still functioning in the city; most of which are national monuments and one that is privately owned by Hospital Carlos Van Buren.

The city of Valparaíso is divided into two sections; the lower part that includes the harbour, and the upper part which encompasses the historic quarter, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

Exploring Valparaíso will involve plenty of walking, so be sure to wear appropriate footwear during your visit.

Close to the shoreline, in the area known as El Plan, plenty of shops, cafes and restaurants line the streets. In order to get from here to the top of Valparaíso’s 45 hills you can climb the steep sets of stairs or ride the traditional ascensores, part of the city’s network of public transport. The first funicular in Valparaíso, which opened in 1883, is known as Ascensor Concepción or Ascensor Turri. This steam operated ascensor is still in use today, and riding in its tiny carriages is an experience not to be missed.

Europeans who immigrated to Valparaíso in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries had an important impact on the culture and architecture of this Chilean city. Communities from countries such as Germany, Italy and Britain created their own hubs within the city, and these are now historic districts known as Zonas Típicas.

From street art to houses, Valparaíso is a kaleidoscope of colour and culture. Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepcion are two streets where bright murals can be found on many walls and buildings. The city is home to artists and musicians whose work can be spotted throughout the neighbourhoods, and the schedule of festivals is always busy.

For sweeping views over this remarkable city, head to Plaza Bismarck or Mirador Ciudad de Camogli, and keep your camera ready.