Valparaíso, a 1.5 hour drive from Santiago, is a charming town of historical architecture built on 45 steep hills that look out onto the Pacific Ocean.
Cerro* Concepción and Alegre are the lively, bohemian parts of town, which probably gave Valparaíso its reputation as a place of poets, painters and dreamers. The city has a great nightlife and is full of multicoloured private residences that seem to be stacked atop each other on the hillside.
The best way to get around Valparaíso is on foot and using one of the 14 ancient “elevators”, remarkable feats of engineering that creak their way up the impossibly steep hillsides. These elevators and the historical sector of town have been listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Interesting attractions include the Museo La Sebastiana, the old home of the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda, as well as the Centro Cultural Ex-Carcel, the open-air museum, the natural history museum and the Museo de Bellas Artes. Head to Mirador Diego Portales for a great lookout, catch a boat ride on the inner harbour or follow the wine route to the Casablanca Valley.
To get back to nature, the Parque Nacional La Campana has beautiful hiking trails. Just 5 km from Valparaíso is Viña del Mar, one of the more chic cities in Chile with modern architecture and trendy beaches.