‘Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven’t combed your hair, you’ve never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.’Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet
Valparaíso means ‘Valley of Paradise’, and while many may not see this rather gritty and in places run-down port city as any sort of paradise, for many others, myself included, it has plenty of charm.
This is one of the oldest cities in the country and was for centuries the most important port on South America’s Pacific coast, being the first that large ships could dock in after rounding Cape Horn. Like all port cities it is something of a melting pot, attracting immigrants from all over the world, and after a few days in Santiago we were struck by the much wider diversity of the people we saw on the streets here than in the capital [living in London we expect cultural diversity to be the norm in a large city].
The city is famous today for its neighbourhoods of colourful houses that spill down the hillsides towards the port. They are a magnet for artists, for photographers, for writers and are especially known for the street art that adorns many of the buildings, which was one of the main things that attracted us here.
Cerro Concepción is a ‘zona típica’ (designated historic area) and a great place to see this proliferation of street art. Most of my photos below were taken there.
I travelled to Valparaiso in 2016