Here, Chile’s third largest city and most important harbour, leaves an indelible impression on any tourist due to its impressive geographical location.
Although, Santiago de Chile, 120 kilometres east of Valparaiso is the capital of the country, the city has been the seat of the National Congress since 1990.
Picunches Indians were the first inhabitants of Valparaiso, located on a narrow band of land between the Pacific Ocean and mountains to the east.
Spanish arrived under the leadership of Diego Almargo in 1536, who is “credited” with the conquest of Chile.
During the Spanish colonial era, the city remained small, and started growing after independence in 1810, with the establishment of a deep-sea harbour to service boats on their way to the west coast of the U.S.A, and to export copper, wheat, saltpetre, guano, and other agricultural products.
After the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914, Valparaiso’s harbour suffered from the loss of international vessel traffic.
During the 16th century, British and German immigrants founded banks and trading companies. They initiated the opening of the frirst exchange in South America.
As the city grew, houses had to be built on slopes of the mountain; this in turn required building funiculars to reach them. The rich built houses on mid slopes, whereas the poor had to go higher. At one time there were as many as 45 funiculars operating in the city, but today approximately a dozen are still functioning. They are now replaced by minibus service.
The city now spreading over 42 hills is still compact enough on foot.
The large banking halls are worth visiting just to admire their lavish proportions and architectural detail.
The Iglesia de la Matriz, Sotomayor Square, Courthouse, the Concspcion and Alegre Historical District, Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open Sky Museum), Monument of Admiral Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane are the most important sites of Valparaiso.
Some of the old buildings are paitned in vivid green, yellow, and red which make them stand out among others.
Vina del Mar, a quiet and pretty suburb of Valparaiso ont eh shores of the Pacific ocean is home to well-to-do retirees living in luxury apartments.
Old palatial hotels serve families from Santiago fleeing the oppressive summer heat of the capital.
Vina del Mar has many restraints offering excellent fresh fish specialties and many of the best wines of Chile.
There is frequent bus transportation available from Santiago to Valparaiso (the trip takes approximately 1 ½ hours and costs less then $ 10.00).
If you happen to be in Santiago and have one or two days available, do not miss the opportunity to visit Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.
All types of accommodations are available.
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|Writer – Hrayr Berberoglu – E-mail – Read his books?
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