Valparaiso and Vina Del Mar (or Valpo and Vina as they are better known) are neighbouring towns on the north Chile coast. They are only 5 kilometres apart physically but thousands of kilometers apart in terms of looks and personalities
Valpo is a busy working port town set around 40+ steep hills with ascensors (funiculars) being the quickest and cheapest way of getting up to the summits. The coast is dominated by cranes and shipping containers and the houses on the steep slopes all have brightly coloured corrugated iron facades, giving the town a multi-coloured, Lego brick appearance. It’s a busy, buzzy town – a little bit grubby but with a very artsy / hippy feel (dreadlocks and harem pants are the norm). More importantly it is full of funky bars and restaurants to suit every taste – they even did a mean Thai.
Vina is a leisure-based seaside town with golden beaches bordered by high-rise apartment blocks, all with a sea view. It’s very flat with palm tree avenues and beach side promenades filled with joggers, cyclists and rollerbladers, and has a very European feel to it – think South of France. It is a well-dressed, clean-cut, civilised town where the Santiago elite flock to for the summer and has malls, designer shops, posh restaurants (although weirdly, very few by the sea) and even a Starbucks!
So which did we prefer? Grubby Valpo or clean-cut Vina? Well, we loved the beach and the serenity and civilised feel of Vina but when it came down to it everyone needs a little dirt in their lives and Valpo is just a little bit more fun (and a lot more interesting to photograph). However they are only 15 minutes apart by the metro train (50 pence each way) so you can easily have both in a day!
PS – The one thing they do both have in common is they are overrun with dogs and have no pooper-scooper rules. If you are admiring the view keep one eye on the floor!