Best of the Coast: Valparaíso & Casablanca Valley

Take Route 68 northwest from Santiago through the Coastal Mountain Range and visit the Casablanca Valley, renowned for its sauvignon blanc, pinot, and syrah. On the Pacific coast, Valparaíso is a picturesque port and UNESCO World Heritage site.

Monte Alegre 149, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile
Built in the 1920s by a Croatian businessman, Palacio Astoreca underwent two years of refurbishment and restoration before opening its doors as a boutique hotel in 2012. The work was carried out to a meticulous degree, maintaining the original parquet floors, and adding splashes of color with art deco furniture and modern art, including one piece by Switzerland’s Frédéric Clot. The stucco-and-brick mansion rises up from the streets of Chile’s port city, Valparaíso, like a piece of red-and-white confectionary.

A statement staircase winds up to the 23 rooms, some of which have stand-alone bathtubs. And the basement level is home to a small spa with an open-air, wood-fueled hot tub set alongside a living wall. The reception level and entrance hall open out onto a terrace where lunch, tea, and cocktails are served, allowing guests prime views over the hilly city and Pacific Ocean. There are quiet corners for those seeking a solitary moment, including a library and a piano bar, which comes to life in the evenings with live music.
Cerro Alegre, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso, Chile
One of the delights of Valparaíso is exploring the colorful hillsides that ramble down towards the sea. Take the century-old funicular elevators Ascensor Concepción (Turri) or El Peral near the main plaza, constructed between 1883 and 1911. Once high into the hills of Cerro Concepción & Alegre, explore the meandering alleyways and cobblestone streets on foot. There are boutiques, cafés, mom-and-pop shops, old school bakeries, bars, restaurants, art galleries, and church bells tolling. It often feels more like a small village than a city. Climb up and down the many staircases often lined with bright graffiti. In the distance, the bay gleams in sunlight and the busy port never tires. At dusk, the lights twinkle like fairylight. Grab a table at a spot like Café Turri for a view of the sunset and a cocktail.
Ricardo de Ferrari 692, Valparaíso, Chile
The poet Pablo Neruda redefined the city with his Ode to Valparaíso, calling it “the patched bow of a small courageous ship.” Today, visitors can tour his home, known as La Sebastiana. The building is now a museum with one of the city’s finest gift shops. —Steven Bodzin Ferrari 692, 56/(0) 32-225-6606. This appeared in the November/December 2011 issue.
Zapallar, Valparaíso, Chile
Zapallar is a decidedly untouristy beach town about two hours northwest of Santiago. Unlike the larger and more well-known Viña del Mar and its suburbs, Zapallar has no major hotels, no high rises, and no busy streets. Rather, Zapallar is the place where Chile‘s well-to-do come to get away from it all, and where a handful of tourists fill its one hotel and few bed and breakfasts year-round. One of the highlights of Zapallar is its ramblas, a two-mile stone walkway that follows the cliffs and hills surrounding Zapallar and along its quiet harbor and sandy beach. From the ramblas you have a spectacular view of the huge waves that come in from the sea, as well as the stately vacation homes of Chile’s elite.
Nobel prize–winning poet Pablo Neruda built one of his three houses in the tiny village of Isla Negra on the rocky coast north of the port of San Antonio in 1939. During his life, the house grew somewhat organically as he decorated with his whims and treasures from many of his travels to far-flung corners of the globe. While Neruda died not long after the 1973 military coup, his disciples can visit this iconic home perched above the crashing waves of the Pacific, the most intriguing of his homes. The house itself is a testament to his life and passions with odd-shaped rooms filled to the brim with collected objects (masks, sea shells, insects, and Hindu carvings, to name a few), always with the sea in view. Fundación Neruda organizes tours in English and Spanish year-round for visitors.
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