The Magic of Chile’s Valparaíso

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1. Because to get there, you have to walk by the naval monument

The monument itself is big, and there’s a flame to honor the unknown dead (please note I do not call it an eternal flame as it was not in fact burning when Laura and I were there). As far as monuments go, it’s a solid one. But the real draw is that there are often little mini-sailors around with their silly pants looking totally out of place among the crowds of tourists.

Chilean navy

2. You also might just have to walk by some chinchineros

Chinchineros are, as far as I know, unique to Chile. Not only do they play a drum strapped on like a backpack with their hands and a cymbal with their feet, they do it all while dancing and spinning around like whirling dervishes.


They’re always male, and the art is often passed on from generation to generation, but I’d never seen such a tiny chinchinero as this little guy who couldn’t have been more than four. (He recovered just fine from his fall, by the way, and seemed more embarrassed than hurt)

3. Boats are picturesque

I really don’t think I have to spell this one out, they just are. Even if they smell not-so-faintly of gasoline and fish.

Valparaíso harbor

4. Orange is a really flattering color

These life jackets would not in a million years have saved our lives. Mine didn’t even fasten properly, so in all likelihood I would have just ended up getting tangled in it and suffocating even if I managed to avoid drowning. These also smelled like fish and gasoline. Have I convinced you that this is a good idea yet?

Valparaíso boat tour

5. It’s nice to get a new perspective on the city

Valparaíso’s views from above are hard to beat, it’s true. But after a while, those photos of hillsides covered in colorful houses, sloping down to meet the see? They start to look a little bit the same. Switching things up with a sea-level view allowed us to appreciate all those hills we’d been climbing.

Valparaíso by sea

6. Sea lions!

And you get so close to them! These do not smell like gasoline. They do smell like fish, but that’s understandable.

Sea lion in Valparaíso

Sea lions

7. More boats.

Naval boats. Boats that look like they came out of a history book.

Valparaíso navy ship

Valparaíso boat

Most exciting to us, however, were the container boats. It’s not as if my nerd-dom was ever in doubt, but let’s just solidify it, shall we? Laura and I were fascinated by the process of getting the containers off the ships, wondering how long it must take them to unload, unpack, repack and then reload all those containers, where the ships had come from and where they were headed next. It was cool, ok?!

Valparaíso container ship

Seven is kind of an awkward number, but that’s all I got. I’ve been to Valparaíso a bunch of times and never taken a boat ride, but the success of our Iquique boat tour inspired me to give it a whirl this time. For $3.000 (US$6), I’m glad we did it – even with that whole gasoline and fish thing.

Valparaíso at night

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