After lunch we wandered around the Valparaiso port known as Muelle Prat. Spanish explorers arrived here in 1536, on the Santiaguillo, a ship sent by Spain’s Diego de Almagro who is considered to be the first European explorer of Chile. The first pier was built in 1810 (a building stands there now), the harbour became a base for the navy and soon opened to international trade including supplying ships during the California Gold Rush. The city became a major stopover for ships crossing the Atlantic & Pacific oceans by the Straits of Magellan and Cape Horn and many immigrants entered Chile through this port.
Valparaiso is arguably the most important Chilean seaport though San Antonio, to the south, is the largest in terms of freight handled. The combined area of Valparaiso, Viña del Mar, Quilpue and Villa Alemana, referred to as Gran Valparaiso, is the 3rd populous in Chile – after Gran Concepcion and Gran Santiago.
Valparaiso (called Valpo by Chileans) is the birthplace of both Augusto Pinochet and Salvador Allende.
There was a lot of activity and colour around the port….
We browsed the various market stalls and bought myself a hat because my sunscreen was wearing off – I hate wearing hats but I could feel my face starting to burn and we were about to go to the beach …
We caught the train to Viña del Mar which sits on the Pacific and is known as La Ciudad Jardín” (“The Garden City”). Some say that Viña del Mar was the focal point for plotters of the 1973 Chilean coup d’etat. We were amazed at how shiny & sparkling the station was and how incredibly clean the train! It was a pleasant ride along the coast and it was only a 10 – 15 minute trip.
There are actually only 2 subway systems in Chile – the much bigger Santiago system and Metro Valparaiso (called the Merval). The Merval is a one-line system; 43 km (27 m) long with 20 stations serving Gran Valparaiso. It was inaugurated in November 2005 – there had been a less reliable system in place before that.