Valparaiso is the major seaport to Chile and Santiago. In the 19th century, Valpo was a major stop off for ships crossing the Straight of Magellen. The colorful buildings have given the city the nickname The Jewel of the Pacific. When the Panama Canal opened in the 20th century, hard times fell on this port city. Lack of funds led sailors to paint the buildings with extra paint left over from the boats. This made the cobblestone maze of the neighborhoods a mural of colors. Today the tradition of painting buildings has attracted many artists to the streets. In 2003, UNESCO declared Valpo and its rich cultural history a world heritage site.
Jordan and I chose our hostel, Muffin Hostel, because it was the cheapest accommodation in Valpo. It was close to the bus station and close enough to the center to walk. What we found at Muffin Hostel was a home and a family. What was originally supposed to be a two night stay became a ten night stay. During the day we would explore the city and neighboring city and sand dunes. At night we would cook, drink wine, play charades and sing along to whoever picked up the guitar and began to play. Some guests came and went but most came and stayed like us. Many of the guests and staff would perform on the streets to make the $8/night rent at the hostel. We spoke a mixture of Spanish and English, as everyone came from around the world. The staff at the hostel was a mixture of Vietnamese, American, Argentinian, German, English and Indian.
Painting staircases was especially popular.
The walk from Valpo to Concon is long but beautiful. The walk is reminiscent of going from Venice to Santa Monica. From hippies and hobos to flash cars and fancy hand bags.
Concon has these amazing sand dunes that butt right up to the city, the road (and the bus stop) and the ocean. A group of us from the hostel took some wine to the top of the dunes for sunset. It was surreal looking out over the ocean and the tops of skyscrapers from our sandy perch.