What to do and where to stay, eat and drink
Leaving Argentina, we took a morning bus from Mendoza to Valparaiso leaving at 9.30am and arriving at 5.30pm, for ARS400. We had heard from many friends that Valparaiso was a quaint bohemian seaside town. On arrival to the bus station not realising there was free wifi, we walked around for 30mins and then after consulting the very helpful tourist office in the station (that provides free wifi) we were pointed in the right direction. After another half hour walk to the tourist district, Concepcion, we were greeted by a graffiti clad neighbourhood adorned with hipster bars and fancy restaurants… just our cup of tea!
We stayed at Hostal La Colombina. Situated right on top of the hill, it had a great view of the sprawling city that presides over the undulating coastline. Be sure to book in advance as it is often full, particularly on the weekend. We had provisionally booked 2 dorm beds over the phone (9000 CLP for a dorm room), but on arrival they said that an online booking had come through for our beds. They very kindly bumped us up to a private double room for the same price, score!
There are many places to choose from to eat and drink in Valpo, particularly in Concepcion. Bar del Tio boasts artisan beers on tap, great cocktails and a yummy tapas menu. This was our favourite place by far that we revisited a few weeks later. It was also where we received the news that Rick’s migration visa had been approved for Australia, so will always be a pertinent place for us. We highly recommended their Empanadas de Mariscos (seafood).
The bars in this town stay open quite late, so if you are looking for a bit of a party, especially on the weekend, this is the place. Everything generally kicks off from about 10pm so it may be wise to have a siesta if you are arriving after a long trip to be able to enjoy the city to it’s full potential.
Amongst the backstreets of this area, there are many hidden little gems, one of which is Café Vinilo that does excellent food with good music.
Casablanca was our closest town to where we volunteered for 5 weeks. On a couple of weekends we explored what the surrounding area had to offer. For a decent pizza, go to Cafe Santo Valle. For good artisan beers on tap, just down the road you will also find El Patio de Casablanca.
This was one of the best days of walking we have had in South America; estimated to take 4 and a half hours to the top, we conquered it in 2 and a half. The terrain was very well trodden and although there were quite a few tourists, there was enough space to not feel too overcrowded. The walk up is almost all shaded with just the last km being in the sun. We had a fantastic array of different terrain ranging from bamboo forests and dusty trails bathed in mottled sunlight through the tree canopy, to open rock pathways that hugged the mountainside with steep drops the other side. The views at the top are amazing… a picnic comes highly recommended!
Casablanca is predominantly wine country, particularly famous for it’s Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. There are many wineries to visit, but our favourite was Bodega Re
“Pioneers of wines of modernity and elegance, allowing a combination of fundamental elements to come to conceive RE wines, where history is the basis of modernity”.
We sampled some unique blends here such as Pinotel (Pinot Noir and Muscatel), Syragnan (Syrah and Carignan) and Chardonnoir (a revival of a blend made for centuries in the Champagne region of France by blending Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Having experienced quite a few wine tastings in Argentina, this was definitely the most interesting journey for the palate, but did come with a fairly hefty, yet worthwhile price tag, of CLP 20000 per person to try a small amount of 5 of their wines.