Take a walk with us through Valparaíso and you could WIN your very own walking tour! Continue reading to find out how…
During our time in Santiago, we heard it was worthwhile to visit a couple of coastal towns just west of where we were staying – Valparaíso and Viña del Mar, where a well-known music festival is held annually. We didn’t actually see the festival because there were plenty of other things to do and see around town.
Valparaíso, the now colorful, artsy, bohemian city of Chile used to be a thriving port town until they opened the Panama Canal in 1950, killing the economy. It also became a place where the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, while overlooking the ocean from his bedroom window, wrote many of his well known poems. For his impact on the literary world, he was honored with the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971. Cerro Florida (Florida Hill) in Valparaíso is where he has one of three homes, La Sebastiana, which is now a museum.
Although we’re typically not super excited about museums, we took a tour of the house since it was listed as one of the top things to do. From the moment we walked in, we were absolutely engrossed – the architecture, colors, collectibles, furniture, artwork, portraits – everything was so unique and full of character. As we listened to the handheld audio device, we wandered from room to room, floor to floor, it felt as though we had traveled back in time and could feel his presence. Unfortunately we were not able to capture any of these images because it was against the rules to take pictures of anything inside the house.
The next item on our agenda was a free walking tour of one of the main sections of Valparaíso. Our group of about 20 followed our guide through the vibrantly painted streets. The variety of street art ranged from simple scribbled graffiti to fully commissioned building-sized murals. Every corner we took, there was another piece waiting to be discovered. To keep their homes from getting “unwelcome decorations”, many homeowners have given some artists permission to create beautiful murals on their walls.
The city is full of small passageways, multicolored staircases and narrow streets. Some have said, it is not a city to be seen, it is a city to discover.
During the tour, we saw homes that were burned, crumbling and falling apart for different reasons. Because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city of Valparaíso must protect what are called patrimonial homes. These homes are not allowed to be torn down, even if already partially destroyed due to earthquakes, fires, etc. They can only be remodeled or refurbished from the inside. The facade cannot be changed whatsoever! The homes end up staying in these run down states due to the unaffordable expenses it would take to restore them. Interesting!
One of the most noticeable things about this city is that it is mainly made up of hills, 42 to be exact. For many people, climbing up these hills to get to their homes can become tiresome. Many take the peculiar looking elevators, known as funiculars that were built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Some of them, now using electricity instead of a water scales system or steam engine to function, are still used today. We braved a couple of the rickety looking contraptions and enjoyed the beautiful panoramic views they offered.
Some of the homes had a nautical theme to them and were built to look like ships. They had a triangular shape, like the bow of a ship, and round windows resembling portholes. One home, the most famous one in Valparaíso, is well known for that look and has been nicknamed the “cruise ship house”.
We discovered so many little gems while walking the city of Valparaíso and probably didn’t even scratch the surface. It would take months, if not years to see all of it!
The other coastal town we visited just a few metro stops north of Valparaíso was Viña del Mar. Think of it as a bit more of an “upscale” neighborhood with bigger restaurants, hotels and a huge casino!
We didn’t spend as much time in Viña because we were mainly there to check out the beaches, and of course eat! We ended up having one of the best salads and pizza we had ever tasted. If you’re ever in Viña del Mar, we highly recommend Diego’s Pizza. Below are some pics of our pizza and other food from this stop!
Do you love to discover cities on foot like we did in Valparaíso? If so, submit a comment and let us know about your next travel destination and why you’re heading there – whether it be local or on a whole different continent – and you could win a free self-guided walking tour to a city of your choice, courtesy of GPSmyCity.com. GPSmyCity currently has over 470 cities worldwide available to choose from!
The promo codes work on both iOS and Android devices. The first 20 readers that leave a comment on this post telling us about their upcoming travels will each win a free code. Click below for a list of cities to choose from – some may be closer than you think!
*** Important – remember to include in your comment your upcoming travel destinations and/or a city you’d like to visit using a self guided tour!***
Giveaway ends April 6th
Santiago was a city we had been looking forward to visiting for quite some time. We had planned a visit here – long before we even left home – because we were going to meet and stay with the family of one of my favorite patients, Isabel!
Isabel and I talked and planned for many weeks before Jen and I left for our trip. We were all very excited for us to be able to meet her sister, Carmen and Carmen’s husband, Andi. At last, all of our schedules aligned and we were all set to meet Isabel’s family. Andi was kind enough to pick us up from the airport in Santiago. We had a grand welcome waiting for us – see the pics below!
Ok, so the photogs weren’t for us. But we did ask one of the camera guys what the hubbub was all about and it turns out they were waiting for a famous Spanish singer named Ana Torroja. She was in town for the huge annual music festival in Viña Del Mar, a beautiful coastal town west of Santiago. We actually brushed shoulders with her as we were heading back into the airport to make a phone call to Andi because we couldn’t find him!
Once we found Andi, we headed home (but not without first stopping at a panadería to pick up the first of the many loaves of delicious marraqueta bread we would be eating over the next few days!) When we arrived, Carmen greeted us at the door. They offered us a room in their small home in Puente Alto – but as they say in Chile, the homes are small but the hearts are big!
Over the next few days, we shared many meals with Carmen and Andi and we also had the pleasure of spending time with Isabel’s brother, Carlos and his wife Lorena and their two children Paula and Mattias. Andi made sure we were well fed every morning and made fresh coffee for us which is very hard to find in Chile.
We visited the tallest building in all of Latin America, the Gran Torre Santiago, with Carmen and Carlos. We were able to see all of Santiago from there and learn about some important points of interest and history of the city.
Both Carmen and Lorena were amazing cooks – we were so lucky to have tried some home made Chilean dishes like parilla (barbecued meats), choripan (sausage wrapped in bread), chilena (a mix of tomatoes, onions, olive oil and a bunch of spices), and our new favorite drink, pisco sours. Lorena made some of the best pisco sours we have had in Chile up to this point, adding fresh mint leaves to really enhance the flavor.
Spending time in Santiago with the family was just what we needed to recharge our travel batteries. We relaxed, ate, saw a movie, did laundry and took the metro to several places (which most of the time came with live entertainment!)
It was very low key and that was alright with us after all the traveling we had been doing. We absolutely loved our time with Isabel’s family and we someday hope to return to see them again!
Honorable mentions: Laleona and Martín, our sweet home away from home kitties that belong to Carlos and Lorena.
In order to get to Bariloche, we decided to take an “easy” 18 hour bus ride from Mendoza. We downloaded a few movies, got to the terminal early and waited to board our 9:30pm bus (scheduled to arrive between 4-5 PM the following day). The following series of events actually happened:
1. Right before going to the bus terminal we were both dealing with “stomach issues”, probably from what we ate the night before.
2. Navigating some of the bus terminals has proven to be somewhat difficult. Most of the time, departure screens are not clear, hundreds of people are going in all directions and a ton of wild dogs roam the terminals. It’s a general state of chaos! Naturally, our bus did not show up until 11 pm. Let me just reiterate: crowds, heat, chaos and thinking you’ve missed your bus do not mix well with having travelers diarrhea! Here’s a pic of what we were dealing with:
3. Just two hours into our ride, the bus breaks down. No notifications or communication from the bus driver whatsoever. We finally learn that we’re waiting for a new bus or someone to fix the motor. While waiting, we fell asleep only to be awoken by angry/hungry mosquitos eating our faces off like zombies!! It’s daylight now and finally leaving. Set back another 4 hours…..perfect. Here’s a pic of Shannon’s face after the carnage:
Once we made it to Bariloche, it was totally worth it.
San Carlos de Bariloche sits at the base of the Andes in the Río Negro Province and is located within the Nahuel Huapi National Park. It’s known for its great skiing, trekking and chocolate! We’ve never seen so many chocolate stores in one area! The architecture of some of the buildings have a European alpine-style to them and at one point was called “Little Switzerland”.
It was such a beautiful place to be, and after all the fun city things we had been doing, we were so excited to get in touch with the nature!
Our plans were to simply get some good hikes in and enjoy the scenery. We were fortunate enough to get an AirBnB host, Carlos, who is really knowledgeable about the area and gave us some tips on what to do and where to go.
Once we figured out the public bus system, we were able to get to some great trail heads. Our first hike was Campanario. It was about an hour straight up. We could have taken the chairlift up but we chose to tough it out. The reward was some of the most beautiful vistas we have ever seen! We were surrounded by the many lakes that make up Bariloche.
The next day we decided to take a day hike. We started a trail head in Parque Municipal Llao Llao. Coincidentally we ran into the same guys that took pictures for us the previous day. We decided to hike together while getting to know each other.
A couple hours into the hike we started to realize that we had somehow veered off course. It was 11:30 PM by the time a bus came by the road that we were walking on. It was dark, we were exhausted AND we had to fight off aggressive stray dogs with our walking sticks! Yes, this actually happened. We walked just over 30 km that day, which was not on the agenda! It was beautiful though…
Because we couldn’t really walk the next day we decided to go kayaking instead of bike riding like we had originally planned. Lago Perito Moreno Oeste was beautiful that day and the water was crystal clear. Just the relaxation we needed. That night we went out with our friends to celebrate one of their birthdays, a nice end to our trip in Bariloche.
Aaaaand…..!!! Lets not forget some of the food we ate in Bariloche…
Next stop, El Calafate!
Mendoza is a lively city nestled in the foothills of the Andes mountains, and it is the capital of the Mendoza province. It is near Aconcagua, one of the seven highest summits in the world and is the place where many climbers stop to prepare for their journey. It’s wine region is world renowned and the city of Mendoza itself is modest, but bustling and full of life.
We stayed at an AirBnB central to some of the city’s most important landmarks and attractions. It was comfortable, our roommates were very friendly, and we also made some animal friends while we were there. The dog’s name is Davidenka (after David Bowie) and the cat was Ovejita (little sheep). They frequently stayed with us in our room and kept us company.
We toured the city on bikes and the tram, we ran in and explored the main park (Parque General San Martín) in the evening where all the locals go for their daily exercise, and of course, we ate some fantastic meals. We had to sample Mendoza’s version of our favorite dish, parrillada, and it did not disappoint.
Argentina is famous for its malbec varieties of wines. You’ll find restaurant menus full of malbecs and they were also the most popular wines for tasting around Mendoza. We went wine tasting in the Maipú region just south of Mendoza city, a smaller region that we were able to bike through. Many of the other regions like Lujan de Cuyo and the Uco Valley are much bigger and require expensive tours or car rentals so we had to bypass them because of our budget. Maipú was just our speed – beautiful wineries, vineyards and a quirky beer garden (of course!) in the middle of nowhere. Even still, the bike riding through Maipú was treacherous in some spots and the distances long. Especially after a few glasses of wine 🙂 But it was a beautiful day well spent.
We also took another tango class! It was much more technical this time and we learned a lot more “fancy” moves. Our tango skills are really coming along. And Jen, who was resistant to the idea at first, has become a real fan of the tango and is doing quite well! (We have no pictures to share of us doing the tango because we were having too much fun!)
Buenos Aires is the 2nd largest metropolitan area in South America and we are constantly discovering how unique it is every time we turn a corner. Every barrio (neighborhood) has something different to offer whether it be art, museums, music, cafes, and let’s not forget – the Argentine tango! It’s known for its European style architecture and has a lot of Italian influence as well, which means pasta and pizza are the main staples here. Oh yeah, there’s the steak too.
We are lucky enough to be staying in the Recoleta neighborhood, which is centrally located to some of the city’s most famous points of interest. We’ve hardly scratched the surface since we’ve been here, but we still have a few days left for more discoveries!
Relaxing and hanging out at our apartment (we got a great deal at $23/night!) has been a nice break from our hectic travels. We’ve been cooking lots of pasta! Here are some shots of our humble abode
Temperatures have been hovering around 85-90 degrees here! It’s great for strolling around the city and passing through some of the many local parks.
We went to see the famous Casa Rosada (the pink house), which you can think of as their version of the White House. It is rich with hundreds of years of history, and is the location where important political events take place in the city. This is where many Argentine leaders, including Eva Perón have given speeches to crowds of thousands of people. We walked around the Plaza de Mayo and imagined what it might look like during times of political turmoil, and also what it might have been like to see Eva Perón inspire so many people.
The Bicentennial Museum located under the Casa Rosada detailed the history of the architecture and politics of Argentina. It also houses many artifacts from the the late 18th century until around 2010. Talk about a time warp!
One of the many cultural staples here are the multitude of artisan street markets. The San Telmo Féria was one of the best ones we have ever been to! The beautiful cobble stone street called Calle Defensa was lined with bohemian style arts and crafts including leather goods, gourds used for making Yerba mate, paintings, jewelry, accessories and anything else you can think of! We were even lucky enough to catch a tango show in the Plaza!
So far BA has been so culturally enriching and we’re excited to see what else it has to offer!