A visit to the Pacific coast, just a couple of hours' drive from Santiago, makes for an enjoyable day's outing. The journey takes you through mountain ranges and fertile farmland, orchards and citrus groves. Valparaiso is a UNESCO heritage site and Chile's most important port, and is particularly appealing due to its hillside setting, with steep winding streets tumbling towards the harbour. The most
pleasant way to explore is by wandering among the colourful houses and taking in the views from the promenades; take the funicular if you don't fancy the climb up narrow staircases. You may wish to combine Valparaiso with Viña del Mar, slightly further along the coast and much more developed and refined; its palm-lined avenues, large hotels and casino reflecting its position as a popular holiday spot for Chileans and Europeans. As a tumbledown port town, Valparaiso isn't glossy or polished, but that adds to its bohemian atmosphere. Architecture and décor are crumbling but renovations and maintenance are being supported by the UNESCO status.
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