Take a short trip from the hustle and bustle of Santiago, Chile’s capital city and head towards the coast where you will find the city’s bohemian sister. In a delightful counterpoint to Santiago’s tradition, extroverted Valparaiso offers an altogether alternative experience. The gregarious character of this coastal city is brilliantly displayed in the winding laneways of Valparaiso’s historic quarter as wonderfully coloured houses sit alongside some of the best street art in the country, if not the continent.
Book a room in the expertly located Casa Galos Hotel and Lofts and choose from a light and airy standard or superior suite or splash out for a loft or deluxe apartment and be sure to head up to the rooftop for stunning views over the city. Nestled in Cerro Alegre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Casa Galos offers a warm welcome from the multi-lingual staff whose local knowledge is invaluable, not to mention the keys they hold to the all-important parking spot.
With the car parked and check-in completed head down towards the sea for lunch at Café Turri. Upon arrival guests are handed the latest edition of the Café Turri newspaper. This is both a menu and calendar of local events in addition to referencing the fact that the local newspaper, El Mercurio de Valparaiso, is the oldest Spanish language daily in the world. Find a spot on the terrace and take in the glorious views over the harbour as the ocean sparkles beneath dazzling sunshine. Stay refreshed with the national beverage – Pisco Sour – and be sure to order the Chupe de Locos, a creamy cheesy delight filled with local locos abalone. The Tea Salad of figs, pistachios, croutons and Spanish ham infused with Dilmah Maharajah Reserve Assam tea is a tasty lighter alterative.
After lunch wander up to La Sebastiana, the hilltop house museum of famed Noble Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda and if walking uphill just isn’t your thing then take advantage of the ascensors. These funicular railways dot the landscape in this part of the city as they shuttle people up and down the hills.
Later, as the sun dips toward the ocean search out the rooftop bar of Taulat for breath-taking views over the harbour as the night is ushered in. But don’t stop there, wander over to Cerro Bellavista for one of the best meals in Valpo … Espíritu Santo offers world class dining in the heart of Valparaiso and for those of you who love a good glass of wine this is the place to be. Owner Laura Moreno has carefully assembled some of the best examples of Chilean wine to be found and is always happy to share her knowledge, taking the dining experience to a completely different level for wine enthusiasts.
After exploring Valparaiso it’s worth considering a visit or two to the wineries in neighbouring Casablanca Valley. Keep in mind when visiting wineries in Chile that it is usual to pay a tasting fee to sample a selection of wines and if you are after a more personal experience it is always a good idea to contact the winery in advance to enquire as to other options available for enthusiastic wine tourists.
Casablanca Valley is a short drive from Valparaiso and Casas del Bosque is a beautiful spot to begin your itinerary. The palatial grounds offer restaurant dining surrounded by vineyards in addition to tutored tastings, a gift shop and bicycles for the adventurous visitor. Continuing on Route 68 to Matetic Vineyards you will find excellent examples of Sauvignon Blanc and cool climate Syrah from this biodynamic producer.
To finish your journey with an icon of the Chilean wine industry, a visit to Viña Casa Marín in the tiny town of Lo Abarca is essential. Founded in 2000 by Maria Luz Marín, Viña Casa Marín is in a beautiful spot just four kilometres from the ocean. Make a reservation at the newly opened Cipreses Winebar across from the winery where chef Luis Felipe Castro Farias creates scrumptious dishes showcasing local produce and if you’re not quite ready for your journey to end, accommodation is available amongst the vines in a cosy cottage atop a hill.