An afternoon stroll in Viña del Mar

For my last post about our time in Chile, I want to tell you a little bit more about the area of town where we met the sand sculpture artist Joao Villegas.

From where we were staying in Valparaíso, we took the metro from Bellavista six stops over to Viña del Mar. As soon as you come up the stairs out of the metro, there are a lot of pedestrians and a lot to see. From the metro station we walked all the way up the coast towards the Dunas de Concón (where the kids like to go sandboarding and where Joao gets his black and red sand) and took a bus back over the course of three or four hours. It was a really pleasant afternoon of walking in the sun. In the last week of October it was about 75 degrees in the direct sun, yet with a cool and sometimes chilly breeze. Aside from talking with Joao, here’s what we did all afternoon.

Walking away from the metro, we came across a plaza and saw these cute little bikes. I made Shane pose next to the tricycles, because I loved the colors.

Before I let our walk get too far under way, I made sure we ate first, of course. I don’t set out on a long afternoon of sightseeing hungry. We went to Entremesas in Viña del Mar, recommended by Lonely Planet in the 8th edition of “Chile and Easter Island” published February 2009. It was in fact delicious; however, we paid 2,800 CLP each for lunch, which was about $5.50 per person. I am extremely cheap and penny pinching when it comes to eating Hispanic food in other countries, so I was all up in arms that lunch cost a full five dollars. I just feel that’s a lot for empanadas; it pretty much felt like US prices. But as I said, the empanadas were really great. They are extra large sized, and you can choose from all different fillings. We had ham, cheese, and corn in one, the traditional pino filling in another (ground beef, onions, olives, hard boiled eggs), and there was a third empanada as well. So, you do the math– three big empanadas and two cokes somehow adds up to 11 USD. Oh well. Additionally, I was griping for a full five weeks on our trip about the overall spike in prices in both Chile and Argentina. Now, this is not Lonely Planet’s fault. The 2009 edition I imagine was written at least a year prior to publishing, and from what I hear, Chile and Argentina’s economies weren’t doing so hot in those years. So, it was a great place for travelers to get a lot for their buck. Chile and Argentina have made an economic comeback since then. So, people like me, with the 2009 Lonely Planet edition show up expecting a super cheap trip, and not only are those South American economies doing better, our dollar is doing that much worse! So, it was always a sad realization every time we saw that prices were sometimes double what was printed in the book. There is supposed to be a new Chile Lonely Planet book coming out October of this year.

After lunch, we headed for the boardwalk, and that’s when we stopped off to talk with Joao. Then we watched the people relaxing on the other side of the Vergara wharf.

There are a lot more sights to see as you continue your walk up the Viña del Mar boardwalk. You know you are in a fun South American town when you can go to vendors along the way.

You can take pictures of the memorial to Huaso, the Chilean horse holding the world high jump record since 1949 (8 ft 1 in)…

… you will also, when visiting Chile, notice the phenomenon of people making out everywhere all the time. Seriously, they’re around every corner attacking each other’s faces. In Santiago, in Valparaíso, in Viña del Mar, on the metro, waiting for the bus, on benches, everywhere!

Viña del Mar is a naval town, what with the naval academy being right there, so you get to see all kinds of naval-y things.

People have also mentioned a lot that Chile and Argentina are very family oriented and very kid friendly. We noticed that little children stay out really late at night and we get the impression they are never left with babysitters. They go to restaurants, and it doesn’t seem as if there are any places “inappropriate” for children, kind of like how here in the US kids should get left home from nice restaurants, etc. There are lots of jungle gyms and all kinds of fun for children in Viña del Mar.

They even get to enjoy a trampoline!

It’s amusing watching the people working out on the beach, or sort of working out on the beach. I guess this guy saw something more exciting than sort of working out.

I’m not sure how effective these workout machines are. The only resistance would be your own weight, but there’s no way to add resistance to them.

We walked and walked for hours. We passed a couple balnearios (spas / beach resorts) along the beach; we wanted to walk all the way to the dunes at Concón, but even though they appeared near, they were quite far away. If you want to make it to the dunes, you need to be proactive and take a local bus up there earlier in the day.

The walk up the beach in Viña del Mar is proof that you can see a lot on a leisurely stroll, and unlike the majority of my hikes in the woods and mountains, it is easily accessible, not packed with adrenaline, and shows that nice walks are not entirely limited to the mountains.

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