The Colorful City of Valparaiso, Chile
Out of all the stops my parents made on their Central and South America cruise, Valparaiso looks like the coolest port. This city appears to be full of culture, vibrant art, and a rainbow of colorful buildings! I would have loved to explore and spend a few days in this quirky port.
During the 1800s Valparaiso was a major seaport for ships coming around the Straight of Magellan and became a popular stop for travelers on their way to the California Gold Rush. During this time the city grew with many European settlers, mainly from Great Britain, Germany, France, Switzerland and Italy.
However, after the Panama Canal opened in 1914, Valparaiso experienced a loss in traffic. Much of the population was forced to moved away due to the decline of the economy. In the last thirty years this city has had a revival.
The major industries that support Valparaiso today are tourism and shipping. Valparaiso is the main container and passenger port in Chile, transferring 10 million tons annually.
Tired tourists, most certainly from the cruise ship, hiding from the sun. About 50 cruise ships and 150,000 passengers arrive in Valparaiso during the 4-month cruise ship season.
Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, Valparaiso is considered Chile’s cultural capital. In 2003, the historic quarter of Valparaiso was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, praising its architecture and culture.
Valparaiso is also referred to as “Little San Francisco” for its similar climate, coastal location, plethora of artists, and historic transit system.
Having traveled to San Francisco, I can definitely see the similarities between these two ports. Both are beautiful bay cities built up on sloping hills and are perfect for wandering the streets in search of unique little shops. Both cities were settled by the Spanish; the first Spanish explorers arrived in Valparaiso approximately two hundred years before they founded San Francisco. Much like Valparaiso, San Francisco experienced tremendous growth during the Gold Rush years. On top of everything else, both cities are prone to earthquakes due to their location on the Pacific coast line. They really are twin cities!
While San Francisco is now famous for many tech companies like Twitter and Craigslist, Valparaiso features older relics such as the continents first volunteer fire department, Chile's first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper.
Because of the steep hills that Valparaiso is built on, residents and visitors use the city's funicular or elevator system to reach the surrounding hilltops. The first of the funiculars, built in 1883, is still in service today!
It looks like stairs are a natural part of life for locals!
Street art is alive and well in Valparaiso. It can be seen in all shapes and colors on buildings around the city. It’s refreshing to see that this art form, once considered to be vandalism and temporary, is now being encouraged and preserved in South America.
In almost all the photographs of Valparaiso I can see that there is bit of art in each of them, some teeny tiny pieces and some huge murals. I love how varying artistic styles are found right next to each other.
"We are not hippies, we are happies." I wonder if you're still going to be happy after climbing all those stairs?