I inhaled my first lungful of sea-soaked Valparaíso air a month ago, and I don’t think my heart will ever fully leave. Join me here, and neither will yours. Here’s why:
1. Every street is a masterpiece. If you’re looking for the best place to get lost, look no further. The winding, cobblestoned streets of Valpo (which is what we cool kids call it) are splattered with some of the most jaw-dropping graffiti I’ve ever laid eyes on. The whole city is a rainbow explosion spilling down a mountainside, equally chaotic and beautiful. Must-sees include Cerro Artilleria, a vista offering the best view of the entire port, and Museo Cielo Abierto, a neighborhood devoted to showcasing graffiti. Go ahead, Instagram away. You won’t need a filter.
2. It’s the most versatile region in South America. Never have I been surrounded by so much variety. Hop on a short bus ride from Valparaíso and you can find yourself in just about any imaginable climate. Just last weekend I visited the charming little town of Casablanca nestled in the wine country less than an hour away. Without even leaving the county, you can visit the world’s driest desert to the north, legendary ski slopes to the east, glaciers to the south, and the most adventurous can even make the journey west to Easter Island. Not to mention that Valparaíso’s sister city, Viña del Mar, is five minutes away if you want some peace and quiet. Whether your interest is in surfing, skiing, hiking, dreamily wandering, or soaking up the sun like a shameless vitamin-D junkie–Valpo’s got you covered.
3. The night life is the stuff of legend. This city comes alive in the dark. You know all the amazing nights you see in movies or shows that make you think to yourself, “That doesn’t happen in real life?’ Remember all the New Year’s Eves that turned out to be such a letdown? Consider this your cleanse of disappointment. I’m not talking about drinking or crazy partying. I’m talking about the sheer, infectious enthusiasm that comes from a city that thrives on joy and spontaneity when the sun goes down. I’m talking about bad karaoke, about underground salsa dancing, about beaches backlit by a sparkling town. I’m talking about experiences with some of the world’s most interesting people that you’ll be so, so grateful to remember.
4. Empanadas. Chorrillana. Pescados. Oh my. Let’s talk about empanadas for a second. They are convenient little pockets of deep-fried dough you can fill with literally anything. And they’re amazing. Notable mentions include the carne y queso at Entre Masas in Viña del Mar and the queso-frambuesa in Reñaca. If you’re in a sharing mood, discover Chile’s best pub grub in the chorrillana: a massive plate of French fries topped with onions, fried eggs and shredded beef. Fresh fruits and veggies can be found at Viña’s farmer’s market every Sunday and Wednesday. Seafood fans can order the catch of the day at any coastal restaurant and be blown away. I’ve made it my personal mission to put all of Chile’s fare in my face by December. What can I say, I’m goal-oriented.