Benjamin Goldberg is a student at Northwestern University and an ISA Featured Blogger. He is studied abroad with ISA Service- Learning in Valparaiso, Chile.
Valparaíso, Chile is a major commercial hub. The city plan (the flat urban metropolis that lies in the city center), houses various businesses, restaurants, and apartments. As you venture away from the plan, you come across Valparaíso’s cerros– hills dotted with colorful homes that do not seem to follow any standardized pattern. Within the boundaries of Valparaíso’s sprawling urban sea, it can be difficult to find great nature spots to relax, unplug, and reflect. However, during my seven weeks in Valparaíso, I have discovered a few places that offer peace of mind.
The first spot that demands a visit are the sand dunes in nearby Concón, which strikingly contrast with most of Valparaíso’s beachy coastline. Here, you can enjoy a beautiful view of the Pacific ocean as you sandboard down these golden giants. Make sure you apply a lot of wax (which they supply) to your board, or you will surely get stuck in the sand. When I went, I rented a sandboard between 8:00pm and 9:00pm so that I could stay to watch the sunset. Watching the curve of the sun slowly submerge under the ocean was an incredible sight to see.
Within Valparaíso it can seem like there is a lack of green, recreational spaces. Parks are a rarity, and most people gather in shopping malls or a in handful of plazas that line the city’s main street, Pedro Montt. While not a true nature spot, a grassy field adjacent to Valparaíso’s famous ex-carcel (ex-jail) is a great place to relax in the center of Valparaíso and soak in a view of Cerro Concepción.
My favorite nature spot is a garden nestled in between two homes in Cerro Mariposa. Various plants and flowers grace every corner of this garden, and fortunately, there’s a chair and table placed conveniently in the middle. The first time I came to this garden, I read a bit, took some photos, listened to music, and wrote in my journal, which were great ways to detox and find internal peace and equilibrium.
I have heard that hiking in La Campana National Park and visiting Cajón del Maipo– a large gorge located outside of Santiago in the foothills of the Andes mountains– are great sites to take in sweeping mountain peaks and greenery, although I have not traveled to these places yet.
Chile is inundated with natural beauty– from the Atacama desert in the north to Patagonia in the south. Finding special nature spots in Valparaíso can seem like a challenge, but they are everywhere. With a little exploring around Valparaíso, you will surely encounter special alcoves in this city!
The world awaits…discover it.