Latin America Travel & Tour Information
Valparaiso Travel Information
Capital of región V, is the principal port and second -largest city of chile, and an important naval base.With the construction of a new congress building on Plaza O´higginis ,it is now the seat of the Chilean parliament. The city is situated on the shores of a sweeping bay and on a crescent of hills behind . Seen from the ocean, it presents a majestic panorama:a great circle of hills is backed by the snow-capped peaks of the distant Cordillera.
The climate is good, for the summer heat is tempered by fresh breezes and sunshine mitigates the unkindness of a short winter .(the mean annual temperature is 15 with -1 and 31 as the extremes).
Founded in 1536, the city became in the nineteenth century the major centre of British naval and commercial activity on the pacific coast of south America, before declining in importance with the opening of the panama canal in 1914.
Little of its colonial past has survived the sequence of pirates, tempests, fires and earthquakes, although a remnant of the old colonial city can be found in the hollow know as El Puerto , grouped round the low-built stucco church of La Matriz . Until recently , all buildings were low, as a precaution against earthquakes, but during the last few years modern multi-storey blocks have apperared. Most of the principal buildings date from after the devastating earthquake of 1906.
There was another serious earthquake in july 1971 and, most recently,in march 1985.
There are two completely different cities. The lower part, know as El plan is the business centre, with fine office buildings on narrow streets strung along the edge of the bay.
Above, covering the hills (cerros), is a fantastic agglomeration of fine mansions, tattered houses and shacks , scrambled in oriental confusion along the narrow back streets. Superb views over the bay are offered from most of the ¨cerros¨. The lower and upper cities are connected by steep winding roads,flight of steps and 16 ascensores or funicular railways dating from the period 1880-1914.
The most unusual of these is Ascensor Polanco (entrance from calle Simpson, off Av argentina a few blocks SE of the bus station) , which is in two parts, the lower of which is a 160 metre vertical tunnel through the rock.
The heart of the city is the plaza Sotomayor , dominated by the former Intendencia (government house), now used as the Regional Naval Headquarters .
Opposite is a fine statue to the ¨Heroes of iquique¨. The passenger quay is one block away (handicraft shops on quay) and nearvy is the railway station, from which passenger services run on the metropolitan line to Los Andes. The streets of El Puerto run on either side from Plaza Sotomayor.
Calle Serrano Runs NWfor 2 block to the plaza Echaurren, near which stands
The church of La Matriz , built in 1842 on the site of the first church in the city. Further NW, along Bustamante lies the Plaza Aduana from where there is an ascensor to the bold hill of cerro Artilleria, crowned by the huge Naval Academy and a park.
To the W of the cerrothe avenida Playa ancha runs to a stadium, seating 20.000 people, on cerro Playa ancha. Avenida Altamirano runs along the coast at the foot of cerro Playa Ancha to Las Torpederas, a picturesque bathing beach. The faro de Punta Angeles, on a promontory just beyond Las Torpederas, was the first lighthouse on the W Coast; you can get a permit to go up.
The New year is celebrated by a firework display on the bay, which is best seen from the cerros.
On another high point on the other side of the city is the Mirador de O´higgins, the spot the supreme Dictator exclaimed, on seeing cochrane´s liberarting squadron:¨on those four craft depends the destiny of America
SE of Plaza Sotomayor Calles Prat, Cochrane and Esmeralda run through the old bankuing and commercial centre to plaza Anibal Pinto , the most attractive square in Valparaiso. Further E is Plaza O´higgins (flea market on sat mornings), which is dominated by the imposing new Congress building .
Several of the Cerros are worth visiting, notably Cerro concepcion, where the Anglican church dating from 1854 can be visited, and cerro Bellavista, where you can visit the ¨Museo al Cielo abierto¨, a collection of 20 murals painted on the exteriors of building (reached from plaza de la Victoria).