Five Must-Know Valparaíso Facts

Valparaíso sits on the Chilean coast, rising up from the harbor like an amphitheater.

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Exploding with colors and filled with a labyrinth of narrow, twisting streets that snake up and down the city’s many hills, this city is a real Chilean gem. Here are five facts about Valparaíso.

These Valparaíso facts paint a picture of a bright, colorful city that’s steeped in history and brimming with culture. Nestled between a great ocean and hilly surroundings, nothing will beat seeing the city for yourself.

It’s the third-largest metropolitan area in Chile

Valparaíso is only 75 miles northwest of the Chilean capital of Santiago. Whereas about 40 percent of Chile’s 17 million–strong population live in and around the capital, Valparaíso’s population has swollen to almost 1.8 million people in recent years, making it one of the country’s most densely populated areas. Known fondly as the "Jewel of the Pacific," Valparaíso is located on central Chile’s west coast and is one of the country’s most important ports.

Before the Panama Canal was built in 1914, Valparaíso was a major port of call for commercial freighters. Nowadays, it mainly caters to ships that are too big to pass through the canal.

Valparaiso was founded in 1536

Spanish conquistador Juan de Saavedra named the city after his birthplace. You can still see colonial buildings today, which have survived wind, rain, fire, and several earthquakes. In fact, in 1906, much of Valparaíso was rebuilt after a devastating earthquake leveled the city.

It’s an incredibly hilly city

An essential Valparaíso fact for first-time travelers is that it was built on at least 42 hills, according to some sources. The actual number is up for debate, but with several dozen hills, expect a lot of walking up and down. However, if you don’t want to spend your time hiking, you can take advantage of the funiculars. Around 30 were built between 1883 and 1916, and lots of them are still in use today. These ascensores, as they are known by the locals, remain a practical way of navigating the city’s slopes. They’ve also became landmarks and tourist attractions in their own right.

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