After my winterly crossing of the Andes, I spent nearly two weeks in and around Santiago de Chile to explore Chile’s capital and the historic port city of Valparaíso.
Santiago is not only the capital but also the economic centre of Chile as well as one of the largest cities in the Americas. About 40% of the Chileans (about seven million people) call it their home.
With its museums, theaters, restaurants, bars, and cultural programs, it is the political and cultural centre of the country.
Due to its proximity to both mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it is possible to ski and later chill on the beach, all in the same day. The Andes can be seen from most points in the city. These mountains, however, contribute to a considerable smog problem, particularly during winter.
Nevertheless, I really enjoyed the city. It is a great place for strolling around and exploring the neighborhoods, which all have unique characteristics and vibes. The following pictures will give you an overview.
A highly recommended excursion from Santiago is a bus trip to Valparaíso. Located about 120 km northwest of Santiago, it is one of the South Pacific’s most important seaports.
Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans through the Straits of Magellan.
During its heyday, Valparaíso emerged as an attractive destination for European immigrants, when the city was also called “Little San Francisco” or “The Jewel of the Pacific”. The opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, however, caused a significant reduction in nautical traffic and gave Valparaíso’s port-based economy a serious blow. In recent years, the city has staged a recovery due to growing agricultural exports.
Besides that, artists and cultural entrepreneurs who have settled in the city’s historic hillside districts, which were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003, are contributing immensely to the city’s revival. Today, the city’s labyrinth of cobbled alleys, colorful buildings, and some of Latin America’s best street art make up a paradise for taking (Instagram worthy) photographs (see below).