Top 5 To-Dos in Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso, Chile is a colorful seaside town with UNESCO World Heritage Site status, where the only thing more impressive than the colors of the buildings and the freshness of the seafood is the steepness of the hills (of which there are over 40!).

Valparaiso, Chile

Just one of Valparaiso’s colorful staircases

There’s so much to do there, but without further ado, here are my Top 5 To-Dos in Valparaiso, Chile: 

5.  Walking Tour of Street Art

Valparaiso Chile Street Art

Valparaiso has some pretty amazing street art, and there’s no better way to see it all than to take a walking tour of the city with a guide.  We did the Valparaiso Highlights Tour with Tours4Tips, which wasn’t a street art-only tour, but we covered a LOT of great murals and learned about the famous street artists that have works throughout the city. The tour meets daily at 3pm at Plaza Sotomayor.

Valparaiso Street Art

Valparaiso, Chile Valparaiso, Chile Street Art

You’ll see some works by famous Chilean street artist Inti Castro (or just “Inti“), as well as some works by other high-profile artists from Valparaiso, Viña del Mar and Santiago like Charquipunk, and Un Kolor Distinto.

Valparaiso, Chile

One of the many works by Inti

You’ll find this piece when Continue reading

The Best of Santiago, Chile in 3 Days

The Best of Santiago, Chile

Santiago, Chile may not be the world’s most beautiful city. It’s not the ugliest, either. It’s got its fair share of fun things to do and cool things to see, but Santiago is a city where people live, work and play. It’s not necessarily built for tourism, but there’s a lot of things to do and see there as a tourist, if you know where to look.

Many folks build a trip to Santiago, Chile on their way to Easter Island, other parts of mainland Chile like Valparaiso, or Mendoza, Argentina. It has many direct flights from U.S. and other international cities, and is one of the capitals of South America.  I submit that it’s definitely worth seeing, rather than just passing through, after being there a handful of times.

Our most recent trip to Santiago had us there for three days, which is the perfect amount of time to see the sights and enjoy the city.

The Best of Santiago, Chile in 3 days

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Tours 4 Tips Free Walking Tour

This time around, we opted to take a tour with Tours 4 Tips, which was awesome! We did the Santiago Offbeat Tour. Our guide was fantastic, and the group was mainly people around our age, but there was definitely a range. We hit some of the top sights of the city that we wanted to see. We also got great background on the tumultuous political past of the country, much of which is not taught in U.S. schools (or is more than a paragraph or two in our history books).

Santiago, Chile

Our guide explains the local produce of Chile at La Vega Central.

Santiago, Chile Mercado Central

Face to face with a conger eel, or congrejo, at the Mercado Central

Our tour highlighted three of the main markets in the city, including the Mercado Central and La Vega Central. We also saw Continue reading

Moai at Sunrise on Easter Island

I received a sweet new GoPro for Christmas (thanks, Mom!) so I took it with us to Easter Island and used my spankin’ new mini tripod to take a video of the Moai at sunrise at Ahu Tongariki, just one of the numerous sites where Moai can be found on the island.  I’m the opposite of a morning person – you’ll never catch me up before the sun unless it’s for a flight or an important event – but this was one of the items on my bucket list when we booked our trip to Easter Island, so I dragged my sleepy butt out of bed for this at five-something in the morning, praying I wouldn’t regret it.

We arrived at Ahu Tongariki in the pitch blackness and used our iPhone flashlights to guide our way down the hill from the small parking lot, over the grassy field with scattered rocks here and there, and perched on one of the larger half-submerged boulders in the field. We waited there, whispering in the dark, facing the sea and listening to the waves crash. Then suddenly, the sky began to lighten, almost imperceptibly, then faster and the Moai emerged from the darkness, almost like ghosts from the sea. It was nearly spiritual.

At first I was a little peeved by the tourist laying around in the frame and posing for photos, but I have to admit now – it’s pretty hilarious.

It’s a shame that it wasn’t a more clear day, but as you can see, it is still pretty magnificent. It was definitely one of those moments that makes you sit and marvel at the world – how lucky we were to be here at this moment to see this and wonder how many people have seen this before, what they were doing at the time, what it meant to them, and who will see it in the future?  It’s one of those things that I think I’ll always remember. At least, I hope so.

Read more about our time on Easter Island here.

48 Hours on Easter Island

48 Hours on Easter Island

Easter Island. Rapa Nui. Isla de Pascua. Whatever you call it, it is a mysterious gem in the middle of the south Pacific Ocean. I mean it’s really in the middle of nowhere, with being about 3,756 km (2,340 miles) to Santiago, Chile and 4,231 km (2,646 miles) to Tahiti and 1,922km from Pitcairn Island, the closest inhabited place to it. Fun fact: Pitcairn is trying to recruit new residents since the population has dipped so low – as in, to 45 people –  in the past few years – read more on that here:  http://www.immigration.gov.pn/

Here’s what I knew about Easter Island before we went there:

1) there’s Moai there (the big stone heads)

2) it’s technically part of Chile, and

3) …Ok…that’s about all I knew.

Moai of Easter Island

The Moai at Ahu Tongariki

So why go? Seeing those big, beautiful stone dudes was on my bucket list. And Easter Island is pretty expensive to get to if you’re traveling around South America as a student or a poor, newly-employed attorney. It was more expensive to go there for a weekend than to go to Rio de Janeiro for a week. So, let’s just say it was on the list but wasn’t do-able until my friends and I started seriously talking about a South America trip this year.

First – how does one get to Easter Island?

You fly, obviously. But, not so obvious is the complete lack of variety when it comes to airlines and direct flights. You basically need to fly on LAN and fly from either Santiago, Chile or from Tahiti. There’s one flight a day, in the morning around 11am. And that’s it. You miss it, you wait until the next day. So when our flight departing New York’s JFK was late in leaving (because – get this- the plane was on the other side of the airport and took an hour and a half to DRIVE TO THE GATE), we knew we were going to be cutting it close and our 2.5 hour layover in Santiago was shrinking.

Pro-Tip #1: arrive in Santiago the night before your flight to Easter Island, or leave at least a 4-hour window between your connection’s arrival at the airport and your scheduled departure.

Easter Island

The arrivals gate at the airport

We nearly missed the flight, and after some begging/pleading/nearly crying to the LAN employees at Santiago airport, we made our connection. I don’t recommend starting your vacation that way. I’m typically probably way too nice to airline personnel, but this was a moment where I almost truly lost it. Mainly because we were promised by the flight attendants and the desk staff in New York that we’d make our connection without a problem, even with the delay. So give yourself a good cushion!

So the plane you take to Easter Island is a jumbo jet – a 787- for some reason, I was thinking that there would only be a small plane since it seems like a semi-unpopular destination. Continue reading

Reñaca & Sushi at Sushi Home Beach

Reñaca is your typical beach-side town with tons of highrise apartment buildings and hotels along a beach, but the difference is that they’re all built on hills and on the beaches, you can rent lounge chairs, an umbrella, and anything else for the day (or by the hour). It’s pretty cool. It’s also handy because almost nobody sells beach towels, and the ones that do are surf shops that sell towels by Quiksilver and other brands, and cost about US $50. So, make sure you bring a towel if you go.
We weren’t overly impressed with the area, but the beach is wide and sandy, yet crowded. As you can see, the weather wasn’t cooperating as much as we had hoped.  We had a great lunch at a sushi place there after it got cloudy and too cold to lay out any longer.
Sushi Home Beach was awesome. We were some of the only ones in the place and the staff was really friendly. Our waiter was bilingual but put up with our terrible accents speaking Spanish and walked us through the menu, and gave us excellent recommendations for rolls and side dishes. We started the day off right with some pisco sours (as you do in Chile) and got to work on our rolls.
I recommend the spicy ones and the ones that have octopus. I can’t remember the names. But the piscos are also damn delicious. So go there, if you’re ever in the area.

Viña del Mar – Why You Need to Go

Valparaiso’s colorful houses and picturesque hills are amazing, but if you go to the Chilean coastline in this area, you’d be remiss if you didn’t make it slightly north to Viña del Mar (about 10-15 minutes) and Reñaca (about 40 minutes).

Moai head, Viña del Mar
Nifty!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re easy to reach by bus from Valparaiso (and directly from Mendoza) and a major vacation destination for the Argentines, and particularly, the Mendocinos. Everyone goes to Reñaca during the summer. It’s like what the Hamptons are for New Yorkers. Except this is the Hamptons for the slightly less well-off, where there are no impressive houses and everyone is eating empanadas. And a lot of people have rat-tails, but not in an ironic way.

Still, you must go. I will write about Viña del Mar here, and Reñaca in my next post. You can catch the city buses there that run up and down the coastal road and the ride is scary, but cheap.

Viña del Mar has at least 2 things (other than Entremasas) that you should go see while you’re there. One is Moai from Easter Island. If you take a photo just right, you can fool some fools into believing you actually paid the billion* dollars to fly to Easter Island from Santiago.

The other is the flower clock that they are so proud of. It’s not amazing, I know. But it’s pretty cool. And if you’re going to be there to see the Moai and get some sun, you might as well mosey on over and take a photo. I’m told that they change the flowers every now and then, so the colors probably vary.

Flower clock in Viña del Mar
Son las 12:37, perras.

What’s more, Viña is more like a “real city” in some respects; they have a Lider (Chilean WalMart), good shopping, a (VERY nice) Casino, a boardwalk… the whole nine.  I recommend having a drink on the patio of the Enjoy Bar, which is right across from the casino, at the end of the little street that leads to the boardwalk. They had a drink called the “Quiet Relax”… which is just a ridiculous name for a drink that was strong as hell and unidentifiable. Stick with a pisco sour. They are delicious here.

I also recommend renting one of the 4-person Surreys (bikes with an awning above it) and riding up and down the street. We went a little crazy and drove up to the doors of the casino. It was hilarious, but I think you just had to be there. You should probably do it, too, and let’s see if we can start a trend. If you do, please send me a photo. I’ll post it. I swear.

A stroll along the boardwalk should also be in your cards for the day, as well as a good wander of the shopping streets. We ate at a delicious pan-Asian restaurant that night, which by its name was highly deceiving, as it brings to mind a certain bad-mall-Chinese-food vibe; Wok & Roll.

The menu was a bit all over the place, but we all decided on curries (chicken with green curry for me) as our main dishes, with some sushi rolls to start. The curries were fantastic, especially since we were in Chile. We didn’t have much time to eat because we were catching our bus back to Mendoza in a few hours, so we probably would have stayed longer if we could have. The staff were great and called a cab for us while we were eating so that we could leave as soon as we were done.  If I went back to Viña, I’d go eat there again.

Another notable thing for Expats who are missing the flavors of home is that there’s a bagel shop in town now, run by expats called BagelMania. They had a booth at Lollapalooza Chile, and I was really impressed. Check it out. Update: I think BagelMania is closed! Wahhh!

*Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating.