Things to Do in Chile – Day Trip to Valparaiso from Santiago

A picture of a hillside full of colourful houses in Valparaiso Chile
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If you have more than a few days to visit Santiago, Chile, exploring beyond the city is a great way to get a better sense of Chile.

One of the most popular day trips from Santiago, Chile, is a full-day experience to the coastal city of Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

There’s a reason why: Valparaiso is a total bucket list location with some fascinating things to see and do, even if you need to be cautious about travel safety. Let’s get into it!

What is the best day trip to Valparaiso from Santiago, Chile?

You’re probably reading this post because you’re trying to plan and book your day trips out of Santiago, Chile. If you’re like me, you want good value for money, a reputable provider, and to get some bang for your buck with a few different sites and experiences packed into one day trip. First up, Valparaiso is totally worth a visit and for me was a once-in-a-lifetime itinerary. Second, you probably already know there’s a tonne of day trip providers, some good, some bad, lots of them super expensive. Let’s narrow that down. Before I booked, I wrote out my list of must-haves for this day trip:

  • Pick-up and drop-off at my hotel in Santiago, Chile (safety first)
  • Spend no more than $100 USD
  • Include a wine-tasting at Viña del Mar
  • Include a visit to the Pablo Neruda Museum and House (author, Nobel Laureate)
  • Include a guided tour of Valparaíso

I found this tour out of Santiago that ticked ALL of my boxes for around $95 USD per person and it gets five stars.

View this Valparaíso tour now

TL;DR? don’t have time for a full review? In short: this tour is a full day, but totally comfortable and doable. The guides are knowledgeable and the wine-tasting, Neruda Museum and Valparaiso city tour gave me all I needed from a one-day trip for under $100.

UNDER TIME PRESSURE?

Enjoy one of the best trips that I took myself on my visit to Chile. It’s possible to see a LOT on a day trip to Valparaiso and get a sense of this very lively and colourful coastal city with some great views across the Pacific.

TOUR INCLUDES

Bicycle at Emiliano Vineyard in Chile
Pick-up & return in Santiago
Tour driver & Guide
Emiliana Organic Vineyard (or similar)
Lunch stop (own expense)
Neruda Museum
Guided Tour of Valparaiso

WHAT TO BRING

A Planet Patrick cap on top of a bag in an airport lounge
Hat & Sunglasses
Cash (smaller notes)
Anti-theft day bag
Refillable water bottle
Travel money belt
SPF+50 sunscreen
Camera or Go-Pro

The Wine Tour: Emiliano Winery

Vines at a Chilean vineyard called Emiliano

Expect generous pours, a flock of llamas and plenty of time for photographs and questions with a knowledgeable English-speaking guide

The visit to Emiliano Winery was so much fun, I’ve covered it in its own blog post!

Valparaiso

Valparaiso is a port city on the coast of Chile known for steep hills and funiculars, colourful buildings, earthquakes, art and culture and a vibrant street life. The drive in on my tour bus looked promising, a colourful street market was underway.

Valparaiso street life
Clothes and shoes sold on the pavement in Valparaiso
An unusual copper sculpture on the roadside in Valparaiso

This unusual monument (on the right above) was constructed out of twists of copper, the most common export from Chile (and thus Valparaiso, which was once its biggest port).  The guide explained that, before the advent of the Panama canal, Valparaiso was hugely influential as the landing site for commodities and spices from Asia, which would then be carried across South America and onwards to Europe and elsewhere from Buenos Aires.

Lunch Stop

When you’re on a tour, you’ve got to stop where the guide brings you, but in this case, the restaurant they chose was delicious, if somewhat slow.

Valparaiso Lunch
A roast piece of Chilean sea bass served in Valparaiso
A dessert of frozen papaya served after roast fish in Chile

On a hot day like this with indigo skies, I chose a Chilean sea bass with root vegetables, followed by frozen papaya and a little smidge of local honey.

Neruda Museum

After lunch, we were taken to the house of Pablo Neruda, who was both a poet and a politician, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1971. His biography is fascinating (I read this version), in particular the time that he spent in Valparaiso after communism was outlawed in Chile in 1948.

The bed of Pablo Neruda at his home in Valparaiso

There’s a lot to absorb in this particular museum but the 90 minutes or so that was allotted was the perfect amount to get an overview of the place and how Neruda had lived there.

Guided Tour of Valparaiso

We were picked up after the Neruda Museum and dropped off in a colourful street high up on one of Valparaiso’s hills.

Colourful houses on a side street high above Valparaiso

The local tour guide was really excellent. He explained that, in common with other fishing and seaboard communities, houses were painted random colours because the paint was ‘acquired’ from whatever ship was being painted in harbour at the time it was built or needed repainting.  Blue ship being painted? Equals a blue house.

Plus, it turns out that a lot of houses in Valparaiso are constructed from wood. The reason became clear a few days later when I experienced my first 7+ earthquake back in Santiago. A lot of earthquakes hit Chile and many of them occur just off the coast from Valparaiso.  I think it might be cheaper to build your home in wood if it’s going to get a good shaking from time to time!

Street Life

This coastal city has fewer expensive seafront restaurants and coffee shops than most touristic spots I’ve visited. It’s all about the street life, fascinating art and a vibrant cultural scene that attracts a lot of younger people. It’s popular on the backpacker trails for a reason.

Busy Valparaiso Street

Expect the streets to be busy and for street artists to attract a busy crowd.

Valparaiso Street Slides

Slide on the street in Valparaiso

Astonishingly, Valparaiso is famous for slides that you’ll find in the streets. Originally, some of the slides were designed to help with washing. As water was used higher up one of the hilly streets, a flat drain would carry the water downhill where it could be reused for more washing.

The one I tried was a more modern metal slide, but it was fun to slide down and enjoy it!

Is it safe to travel to Valparaiso, Chile?

Let’s cut to the chase. Like many big South American cities, Valparaiso isn’t entirely safe. That extends beyond South America, for sure, and I’m not here to overblow it. Our guide warned us repeatedly about the problem of petty crime. We made sure we heeded his warning to zip up bags, don’t flash money or expensive tech and stick with the group. We were advised not to wander away from the touristic areas and minimise unwanted conversations that might spring up on the street. With those sensible precautions, most potential issues should be avoided.

Summary

At the end of the tour, the guide took to us to a local store to stock up on water and snacks before starting the 90 minute drive back to Santiago. Note that it can take a little time to drop guests back at their hotels on your return. This is a full day experience and I was glad to see my hotel room again! But this was one of the best excursions that I took during my itinerary of South America and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this to you.

Book the Valparaíso tour now

I'm Patrick, your Irish guide to the skies and beyond. With 58 countries visited, my journeys have taken me from busy economy to fabulous first-class.

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