Just a short bus ride away from the westernised hub of Santiago you’ll find the colourfully shabby port town of Valparaiso, affectionately known as Valpo. Its hilly setting on Chile’s coast is a visual feast of dilapidated houses of every colour. Its alleyways and streets are labyrinths of some of the best street art Latin America has to offer. A day trip to Valparaiso is a must.
Furthermore, UNESCO declared the historic quarter of Valparaiso a World Heritage Site. European immigrants who settled in Valparaiso due to its advantageous shipping location are part responsible for the city’s colonial charm. Some of the old funiculars, to help traverse the cities steep climbs, are still in operation today and very much worth a ride. Read on for our relaxed travel guide to Valparaiso.
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Santiago to Valpo | 1 Day Guide
Within this guide we’ll show you how best to travel from Santiago to Valparaiso by bus including how to use the Santi Metro, where to buy and board the bus and of course, what to do with your day in colourful Valpo.
1. Street Art Tour
Street art tour is a must in Valpo. After spending a month in Patagonia we were keen for a little down time, so a chilled day in Valpo was very much on the cards. Aside from hunting down good coffee, we’d planned a self guided tour of the Valparaiso street art, and a ride up one of the funiculars. We’d recommend checking out Career Break Adventures self guided walking route. Above all it details 3.3km of eye catching murals and takes a couple of hours to complete. The tour meanders the safer of Valparaiso’s neighbourhoods- Cerro Concepcion and Cerro Alegre. As enjoyable as it is impressive, the street art and colourful houses on every corner make for a relaxing and rather leisurely morning stroll, a definite to include in any Valparaiso travel guide.
Still channelling our Patagonia thriftiness, we’d packed lunch for our day trip and were just in need of a lovely spot to enjoy it. But where to go? Naturally we thought somewhere on the waterfront would be nice as Valparaiso is a coastal town. We thought wrong. Let’s not forget Valparaiso is still very much a working port town. There’s a huge dock and shipping container yard on the waterfront. As a result there’s often offensively big cruise ships mooring- this was to be our lunch time vista. Maps do appear to show the existence of a beach, however crossing the train line that hugs the coast did not seem the most straight forward, and hunger was beginning to get the better of us. Perhaps you’ll make a better job of it. A smarter choice to enjoy lunch would be on El Peral’s terrace, with excellent views over the city.
2. Historical Funicular
The funicular rides are unbelievably cheap and offer great views of the city. Lastly we checked out the funicular. These rickety rides have been declared National Monuments of Chile with 16 still in operation of the the 30 that were originally made. For a small fee of $300CLP ($0.35 USD) each way you can take a ride.Payment is made at the top, and then again before you ride back down. We’d planned to ride Ascensor Concepcion, near to our walking tour, and the first of the funiculars to be built. Unfortunately this funicular turned out to be closed on the day we visited. Instead we headed up Ascensor Artilleria- said to have the best views across the city anyway. For such a cheap price it was fun to enjoy, first hand, a little piece of history.
Likewise another historical site to note in Valparaiso is the existence of the trolley-bus. They are the only operational trolley-bus system in Chile, and the oldest in the world. Like the funiculars, they were declared National Monuments of Chile.
Getting from Santiago to Valparaiso
Take a bus from Santiago. From Santiago it is very straightforward to take a direct bus to Valparaiso. Furthermore, with a travel time of only 1.5hrs, or sometimes under, it makes for an easy day trip.
First we took the Metro to Terminal de Buses Alameda. To use the Metro in Santiago you need a Bip card. Bip cards can be used by more than one person and are purchased from any Metro station for $1,500CLP ($1.80USD). We purchased ours from the ticket office at our nearest station. The member of staff on duty kindly made sure we added enough money to the card for our journey to the bus station and back. Very helpful! Single peak journeys cost $830CLP ($1 US), with off peak costing $750CLP ($0.90 US) per person. We took Metro Line 1 to Universidad de Santiago. Here you alight for the bus terminal.
Bus to Valpo
This terminal solely serves 2 of the biggest bus companies in Chile – Turbus and Pullman. Both very good companies with not much to distinguish between the 2. As a result we journeyed with Turbus at a cost of $4,200CLP/person ($5 USD) one way, for no other reason than that was the bus company we’d come across first online. The station can be quite busy but is easy enough to navigate. If you’ve travelled a fair bit of Chile already, you’ll know Turbus are a reliable and comfortable bus choice. We used them for our return journey also. See how to spend a relaxed day in Valparaiso with our Valparaiso travel guide.
STORY TIME: Having purchased our tickets from the office, the staff member who served us very kindly wrote on the top of our tickets the number 18 for our platform. Or so we thought. With time to spare, we headed to platform 18. However, as our scheduled bus time was nearing, our bus was nowhere to be seen. Panic was beginning to set in. Luckily we came across a member of staff on the platform and tried our best to explain our concerns. He informed the bus left from platform 8, not 18. In fact he could see it pulling away from the station as we spoke! Going above and beyond, he chased our bus down and ensured we boarded. What an awesome person and what a save to our day trip to Valparaiso! It turns out platform 18 said platform 1-8. Oops. The lesson- ALWAYS double check.
Returning to Santiago
Get back on the bus. To return to Santiago from Valparaiso is easy. You can catch the bus from the Turbus terminal located at Pedro Montt 2830- the same location you arrived into. Booking on the next bus to Santiago is easy as services are extremely frequent- no need to worry about your desired bus time being booked out. We found we were more than ready to leave by 4pm and even seemed to benefit from a discount on the day, meaning our return journey only cost $3,500CLP ($4 USD).
As this was a day trip, we were actually based in Santiago for a few days. Through Airbnb we had found accommodation within the central hub of the city in a nice apartment block. Should you decide to stay over night in Valparaiso, or longer even, Airbnb has good options plus we use Booking.com too.
For more details on our accommodation, see our Maipo Valley Day Trip From Santiago For Only $30 guide.
Five Travel Accessories for Valparaiso
If you’re planning on taking the bus to day trip Valparaiso, which we hope you are, then here are a few essentials we recommend and you may want to consider. For a more comprehensive packing list, please check out the Ultimate Packing Checklist. It’s a great general summary of everything you’d need for a trip. For even more information check out our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack – a good rucksack is invaluable, whether hiking or city strolling.
- Osprey Ultralight Waterproof Bag Cover – you know, just in case!
- Karrimor 1L Clear Water Bottle x 2 – maybe it’s because we’re used to always filling up the water bottles when hiking, but we find it’s equally useful to have water to hand for any trip.
- Travel wallet – as with all money and especially when travelling on public transport and cities, make sure your money and valuables are kept securely and organised well.
- Nikon D3400 Digital SLR Camera – you cannot leave Valpo without having captured its colourful street art and rickety old funiculars.
- Street smart: Use the self guided street art tour on your phone, but try to memorise the route as you go. Having your phone out all the time is not a good idea. Also we recommend Maps.me to help navigate if you need. You will need to download the area beforehand. It then works off line.
- Empanadas: Head to Delicias Express for over 60 varieties of these South American favourites. Located at Urriola 358, Valparaiso 2361823, Chile.
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