Gadabout's Corner

Bird of passage

Category: South America (Page 1 of 3)

VIÑA DEL MAR: The Vineyard of the Sea and The Garden City

Viña del Mar or translated into English as “The Vineyard of the Sea.” Viña is one of the nicest place I have ever been. The people are very nice, cute and exciting. It’s right by the vibrant Valparaíso, which is only 15 minutes away by car. However, it’s a completely different atmosphere. Viña is so laid back and if you want to know what the vibe here is like, keep in mind that it’s a sister city of Sausalito in California.

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It’s not complicated to stay in Viña as it’s so easy to get around and the weather is nice almost all year round. The majority of the area in Viña is easy to navigate, because streets are systematically arranged into Norte (north) with Poniente (West) or Oeste (East) and numbers labelling them. For example, Colegio Franco – Inglés is located within the block of the 1 Oeste with 2 Norte (East #1 with North #2.) Easy!

Main Streets
  • Avenida Libertad (Libertad Avenue)
    • Iglesia las Carmelitas
  • Calle Valparaíso (Valparaíso Road)
    • restaurants, café, pastry shops, bakeries and bars
    • shopping complexes
    • feria artesanal market
  • San Martín
    • feria artesanal market
    • Plaza Colombia
  • Avenida Perú (Peru Avenue)
    • Playa El Sol
    • Muelle Vergara

Apart from these blocks, there are few main avenues that you should check out. Firstly, an avenue that is right in the middle of Poniente and Oeste roads is the Avenida Libertad. It’s where the Iglesia las Carmelitas is. It’s a massive beautiful catholic church, standing proudly with the shades of the avenue’s trees.

Calle Valparaíso is a place to go as there are many places to eat, cafés, bakeries, pastry shops for an awesome Completo, bars, shopping areas, especially the feria artesanal or the craft fair that has lots of handmade products and souvenirs to buy.

Another street is the San Martín, where there is more feria artesanal by the beach and the Plaza Colombia.

Avenida Perú is so unique as the rocky barrier between you and the sea is so much fun to walk around and taking photos. Sometimes, the barrier is not enough to protect you from the crazy current of the Pacific and it can rain on you a tad. It’s so much fun and it’s a good walk for the sunset as well. It also leads you to the beach Playa El Sol and the unique site, Muelle Vergara that reaches out in the sea. Also, there are some touching arts and quotes on these rocks as well. It might takes longer than you expect to cover the distance of this avenue.

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In warmer days, it’s a great vibe to be by the beach as there will be so many people listening to live music from amateur bands or a fun gathering of young people.

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Things to see
  • Wulff Castle (Castillo Wulff)
    • Marina Avenue
  • Castle Hill (Cerro Castillo)
    • Presidential Castle (Castillo Presidencial)
  • Reloj de Flores (Flower Clock)
  • Botanical Garden (Jardín Botanico Nacional)
  • Casino Hotel del Mar
  • Quinta Vergara’s Art Museum
  • Estadio Sausalito
    • Laguna Saulito
  • Feria Libre Marga Marga
  • Playa Reñaca
  • Concón

There are so many things to see and do in Viña del Mar. First attraction you shouldn’t miss is the Wulff Castle, which is located by the Marina Avenue and just hanging over the sea. There are viewpoints to watch the Pacific hitting the rocky edges of Viña and there is also small beach areas where many seagulls and birds are watching you.

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Up on the Castle Hill, there is another castle of Viña. The Presidential Castle is hiding behind buildings by the waterfront but it’s elegance pop above those buildings and you can still see it from a distance.

Not too far, there is Viña’s signature, the Reloj de Flores. People can immediately tell that you went to Viña if you post a picture of you with this clock.

Viña is known as “The Garden City” for its greenery, gardens and plazas. One of the peak is the Botanical Garden. It’s massive and there are activities for everyone, kids, teens, adults or elders. There is a small pond in the middle of the garden that touches up this place.

Next, one of the very popular place, especially among the locals is the Casino Hotel del Mar. It should be so much fun to be inside playing, but it also offers you a great view of the ocean.

Next to the Casino is the Quinta Vergara’s Art Museum. This place is separated into 3 areas, the Vergara Palace, the amphitheatre and the petite garden.

Also, if you are a big football fan or if you are not, you still shouldn’t miss the Estadio Sausalito, which has been the host of many big matches, especially the Copa America. It’s also right by the small Laguna Sausalito.

In the middle of the streets, there is a cool fresh market where you can get some fresh fruits and veggies. I have never seen a bigger pumpkin like ones I saw here before. They are massive. The Feria Libre Marga Marga itself is also a huge market. Note though, it’s not open everyday, so check with the local before you plan to go there.

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If you are up for some excitement and rush, then you should definitely visit Playa Reñaca for some water sports. If you are interested, there is a very big surfing school right by the beach as well. You can click here to visit their website for more information.

But if you don’t like cold water, then you should go for the Dunas de Concón for some fun slides on the sand dunes. The sunset by these dunes is also incredible.

Events
  • Festival Internacional de la Canción de Viña del Mar
  • La Esmeralda of the Navy

There are 2 beautiful events in Viña that happened every year. Both events that I’ll talk about are so different and provoke different emotions.

In February, there is a big scale music festival that is even broadcast on Television and it’s known as “The Viña Festival.” It’s an international music festival with big stars such as the amazing Enrique Iglesias or Ricky Martin.

The other one is not so official but it’s something that people are waiting for every year. It’s the arrival of La Esmeralda, which is a brave navy navigation ship that stops by Viña, so that the family and friends can greet their beloved and brave navy men. It’s so touching.

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The culture and people of Viña del Mar is my kind of vibe. I really like this place that I make it my other home and that I’ll always look forward to go back to, especially to the nicest people and friends.

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VALPARAíSO: Chileans’ Capital of Culture

For those who are interested in going to Chile, you are more likely to be visiting its capital, Santiago. The city is enclosed in a circle of the Andes and there are many things to do. But not far from Santiago, only about 2 hours, there is Chile’s Capital of Culture, Valparaíso.

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Valparaíso has been given many names due to its characters, such as “The Ocean’s Sweetheart” or “The Jewel of The Pacific,” but “Valpo” is how it is being called by locals. You can’t really give this city one domain character. It is a port city, with hills, with colorful houses, with graffiti walls and small lanes.

It’s an old town, with great modernization. There are modern industries and malls inside the conserved buildings. Among modern cars, trolleybuses are running around, sharing the roads. However, these trolebuses are not the only old-fashioned transportation service in Valpo. There are lifts and funicular railways taking pedestrians from flats to hills in which both are referred to as ascensor in Spanish.

Ascensores
  • Ascensor Polanco
    • Cerro Polanco
    • Simpson street
  • Ascensor Artillería (ar-ti-ye-ri-a)
    • Cerro Artillería
  • Ascensor Reina Victoria
  • Ascensor El Peral

The only lift in Valpo is Ascensor Polanco. It’s the only ascensor that goes vertically up and down inside a tower. It’s still working, carrying people from Simpson street to Polanco hill. To enter the lift from the ground level, you have to go through a tunnel in Simpson street and the lift will carry you up, stopping twice. The higher stop is at the top of the tower, which gives the best city view to commuters.

Apart from this ascensor, few others are still working as well. Ascensor Artillería is one of the big landmarks of Valparaíso. It’s a 2-lines funicular railways that takes people to the Cerro Artillería, with the view that allows you to look down to the busy port area.

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Ascensor Reina Victoria is also a great place to see the vibrant arts and color of the city. Its location is in a perfect corner of Cerro Alegre. It’s noticeable by the vibrant yellow tower that stood tall among many other colors of the neighbour. Also, the path on the higher level gives the best access to the hill and its view.

For one of them that wasn’t working when I was there is the Ascensor El Peral. However, it’s open now and offers you the great view from the little corner of the town. It must be a fun ride.

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Hills (Cerros)
  • Cerro Barón
    • San Francisco church
  • Cerro Florida
    • La Sebantiana
  • Cerro Lecheros
  • Cerro Bellavista
  • Cerro Alegre
  • Cerro Concepcíon
    • Hotel Brighton
    • Hotel Casa Mirador

To see Valpo in as many perspective as possible, you will have to go to as many hills as possible. Believe me, there are more than enough for you to climb and explore.

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Cerro Barón is one of the hills that gives you a panoramic view of Valpo, with the Pacific Ocean. On the hill, sits the San Francisco church, which is one of the historical place that has been affected by few major fire incidents of Valparaíso.

Cerro Florida is the location of La Sebastiana. It’s a museum that used to be a house of Chileans’ most beloved poet, Pablo Neruda. The house offers an amazing view and decorations. There are also great collections of Neruda’s treasures. There are a total of 3 houses of Neruda in Chile. The other is La Chascona in Santiago and the one in Isla Negra. If you can, try visit all of them and try to understand his creativity and romanticness that portrayed through his arts, poems and ideas. Because it’s not allowed to take photos of how these houses look like inside, the only way to experience is to personally go there. It’s so hard to explain and visualize something unbelievable like Neruda’s diplomacy.

The other hill is Cerro Lecheros. It has big, tall and vibrant buildings to offer. Some of them are even in the middle of the junction.

The most colorful spot in town is at Cerro Bellavista. You can’t miss this place. Apart from colorful houses, there are painted steps, colorful murals and graffitis. One of the very special things about Valparaíso is how these scenes can be changed under a matter of days. These colors could be repainted and covered the next time you return to see it again.

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For more colorful houses, you should visit Cerro Alegre. This is one of the more artistic area of the city. It’s filled with art shops by locals, nice cafés, restaurants and it also has Viña del Mar curving in the background.

If you are looking for nice hotels that have great ocean view, then you should visit Cerro Concepcíon. One of the major hotels that stands elegantly on the top of the hill is the Hotel Brighton. The other one is the Hotel Casa Mirador. When I was there, it has cute pastel color and a great ocean view.

Valpo does not only looks great from the height, it’s also very classy on the ground, especially at the Historic Quarter, one of the major part that makes Valparaíso a UNESCO site.

The best way to explore and take some awesome pictures of Valparaíso is by walking. This could gain you some muscle but it’s worth it. Give yourself a good amount of time to see everything, walk into every mews and lanes. Remember to take as much pictures as what the city offers. One thing though, you gotta be careful in some areas, especially with stray dogs. Also, you gotta be careful with your belongings.

Lastly, if you are keen on trying the amazing Chilean food, then here is the place. There are various restaurants for you to try local food like pastel de choclo, cazuelaempanadas and my favorite completos. But if you are in Valparaíso then you should try fresh seafood at the market by the fishermen pier. There are restaurants close by that cook for you from fresh ingredients, recently out of the sea.

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Chilean Patagonia: Torres del Paine and the Southern Andes (part3)

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This is the last part of our trip to the Tierra del Fuego. We are getting so close to the Antarctica that I hope if I stare good enough in the right direction, I will be able to see that white continent.

We just left Torres del Paine National Park and now we are moving to Puerto Natales, which is where we disembark from our ferry. I’ve already mentioned that it’s better to see things if we travel by sea and the one I’d recommend is Navimag Ferries. They provide several routes and choices depending on your preference. I departed from Puerto Montt, travelling down, seeing loads of stuff for 3 days and disembarked at Puerto Natales. The price was 550 USD per bed and that already includes food. The facilities are really convenience and clean. There are shared bathrooms and toilets as well as the kitchen and other common areas like bar and dance floor. You might experience some seasickness as we have to navigate pass the areas where the surface of the water is really naughty, but there are medication service that will help you. Staffs are really nice and the food is really good as well.

Puerto Natales
  • Last Hope Sound (Última Esperanza)
  • Eberhard Fjord
  • Milodon Cave (Cueva del Milodón)
  • Navimag and Navy pier

Puerto Natales is a small waterfront town, with piers that bring people from every corners. It’s very classic, with old and colorful houses along the lakeside. One of the signature of this port town is the Última Esperanza, which is a spot to watch the sunset, flamingos and take cool pictures with old, ruin piers that reaches into the body of the water. It’s suitable to bike there along the shore of the Eberhard Fjord or treat yourself with another boat ride, which will bring you closer to waterfalls and animals. On the way, you will be visited by fellow sea lions as well.

You should also visit a cave that triggers the giants mysterious of the Fire Land. I’d recommend spending time around and inside Milodon Cave until it opens you to the great green scenery.

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You could also spend time relaxing by the pier, either at Navimag pier or if you want a bit a beach then there is the Navy pier for you. Also, if you are looking for a nice place to stay and relax, then you might wanna check out Remota Patagonia Lodge.

Punta Arenas
  • Magdalena Island (Isla Magdalena)
    • Penguins
  • Rey Jorge Island Natural Sea Park
    • Whale watching
  • La Cruz Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cero de la Cruz)
  • Nao Victoria Museum (Museo Nao Victoria)
  • Punta Arena cemetery

A bit below Puerto Natales, Punta Arenas is one of the biggest city in this area. It has an airport, which you can fly back to Santiago instead of travelling back by sea. It’s the base for Antarctica expeditions in which you can buy tours or cruise trips from town centre. There are many islands in this area and one of the most known one is the Magdalena Island. It’s where you can get close to the Magellanic penguin colony. The other one is not as known , but you can spend time observing wild mammals like whales. It’s the Rey Jorge Island National Sea Park.

You could also go to La Cruz Hill Viewpoint that will allow you to see the whole city and it’s a great picture opportunity. And if you are interested in navigation history, then you should check out Nao Victoria Museum. Inside, there is the replica version of the first ship that successfully circumnavigate the world. However, if you want to know more about the history of Punta Arenas then you’ll want to go to Punta Arenas Cemetery. This place is known for their trimmed cypress trees that decorated the whole place.

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Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego
  • Porvenir
    • Cerro Mirador
  • White lake (Lago Blanco)
  • Camerón River
  • Navarino Island (Isla Navarino)
    • Puerto Williams
    • Los Dientes Circuit
  • Cape Horn (Cabo de Hornos)

Tierra del Fuego is a very remote island, again owned by both Chile and Argentina. It’s so remote that it’s only a boat ride away for the Antarctica. The main town of this Fire Land is Porvenir. There is not much of the scenery to see, but there are loads of history awaited to be discovered as well as many animals. To have the best look of this town, you will have to go to Cerro Mirador. It’s the viewpoint this town can offer.

There is a great spot on this island that will allow you to spend time relaxing or fishing. It’s at the Lago Blanco. Here, you can catch yourself some fish and cook them fresh on spot. However, another body of water that you shouldn’t miss is the Camerón River. Again, you can spend time here, catching wild fish. But that’s not all, you could also stay at the Estancia Cameron Lodge and experience the whole Tierra del Fuego culture. There are many activities provided for fellow travellers, such as fly fishing, trekking, kayaking and bird watching.

To get yourself even more down south, you might want to stop at the Navarino Island. The main port of this island is the Puerto Williams, which is the southernmost inhabited settlement of the world. It’s a beautiful port city, with lots of boats and ships passing by or stopping by. It’s also decorated with white mountain range. It’s really peaceful and cold. I have to mention the cold. However, the beauty and what’s await allows us to easily forget about the weather.

You can easily get here from Punta Arenas via Transbordadora Austral Broom. Apart from taking you to Puerto Williams, there are other services as well, such as trips to Magdalena Island.

Just outside the town, if you are experienced and you are prepared, you might as well get yourself into one of the hardest hiking trail in South America. To complete Los Dientes Circuit, you will have to spare around five days, but you will definitely love what you see. The trail of the circuit is over 50 kilometres, so get your blood pumping.

Further from the Navarino, there sits the end of America. Cape Horn is reachable by sea and plane, but I would suggest the sea, even though it takes longer to get there. When you arrive there, you will see the sign that marks this legendary spot. It says “Armada de Chile, Alcaldia de mar, Cabo de Hornos.”

And finally, we are here, the end of this continent. We can’t go any further without having to move to Antarctica, in which I’m sure all of us would love to and we will.

 

 

 

 

 

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