Photos by Hector Garcia on Flickr.
If too much urban living has got you down, follow the great example set by hundreds, if not thousands of Santiago-dwellers and visitors, and head due west down the ultramodern Ruta 68 to the coastal port city of Valparaíso.
Valparaíso is just an hour and a half by bus from Santiago (slightly less if you take the red line metro to Pajaritos and take the bus from there), and is a world apart. It’s a multihued, multi-hilled city spread out on a hillside, that spills down into the “plan” (grid) below, with several interesting plazas, the national congress, food specialties such as the simply-bad-for-you chorillana (a pile of french fries with stewed onions and meat on top), sweet hilltop cafés, and a rabbit’s warren of tiny quirky streets and asensores (outdoor elevators) to whisk you up the hillside. It is also the home of one of the three home-tuned-museums of the prizewinning Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, this one called “La Sebastiana.”
Valparaíso is nothing if not colorful, though a bit of caution should be exercised walking around the hills. Most visitors to the city, Chilean and foreign, tend to stick to Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción, with the area around Café Turri being a particular favorite for its sweeping views of the city below.
If Valparaiso’s confusing streets have got you down, you can also always spend the night in the nearby (10 minutes by bus, train or taxi) garden city of Viña del Mar, which houses a fancy casino, and is the playground of Chile’s middle class come summer.