Are you traveling to the west coast of Chile and not sure if you should stay in Valparaiso or Viña de Mar? Then this post is for you.
When we were planning our trip to Chile, one of the hardest decisions was deciding whether to stay in Valparaiso or Viña del Mar. I was able to find a lot of information on each city individually, however there wasn’t that much information on 1 single page, where I could get all the information needed about both cities to help determine which would be best for us.
In this post you will find information that will help you in your decision making process.
Keep reading to learn more about deciding if you should...
Stay in Valparaiso or Viña del Mar
About Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
Valparaiso and Viña del Mar are both large cities on the Pacific coast of Chile, about 125km (78miles) west of Santiago however they are very different and each have their own set of distinguishing qualities. Both have a lot to offer depending on what you are looking for.
Valparaiso, also known as ‘the Jewel of the Pacific’ or ‘Little San Francisco’, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a port city with loads of character, lots of cerros (hills), funiculars and colorful buildings.
Viña del Mar, also known as ‘the Garden City’, and called Viña, by the locals, has a resort feel. It’s clean, has beaches and highrises, restaurants and bars. Many Santiaguiños (people from Santiago) vacation here in the summer.
Playa Acapulco at Viña de Mar
Street atop Cerro Concepcion in Valparaiso
Deciding which is right for you will depend on a number of factors. What may suit someone, may not suit someone else.
One is right for you, you just have to figure it out!
To begin with, logistically, they are very similar. They are both about 125km (77miles) west of Santiago on the Pacific coast. The distance between the 2 cities themselves is less than 10km (6 miles), making getting between the 2 cities is simple. A taxi or Uber is about 15 minutes, and the metro is between 20-35 minutes.
Ambience, Character and Energy
Next let’s talk about the feel or the vibe of each. Both Valparaiso and Viña del Mar have a ton of energy. They are large bustling cities with a lot of people who love to be out enjoying life. However they still vary drastically in this category.
The beach of Viña brings many Chilean tourists and in the summer it is very busy, and has more of a resort feel.
Valparaiso is a old port city with so much history. Around the port, and the flat area of Valparaiso, you have the area called ‘The Plan’, where you find most of the public and commercial buildings. This area is also more ‘grittier’. Once you get up into the cerro’s (hills) it’s like a postcard coming to life, full of colorful buildings, boutique hotels, and restaurants. And sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Most of the population lives here on the cerro’s.
Playa Acapulco at Viña de Mar
The character and color of Cerro Concepcion, Valparaiso
As far as accommodations go, both Valpo and Viña have a large selection for hotels (chain and boutique) and hostels. As I mentioned before, Viña definitely has more of a resort vibe therefore it has a bigger selection of chain hotels and high rises lining the beach. Although Valpo has a few large chain hotels, most of the hotels are smaller boutique style hotels. All visually different, usually in vibrant colors, set upon one of several of the cerros (hills). We also found hotels in Viña to (generally) be less expensive.
Eating and Drinking
Again, both Valpo and Viña have a great selection for food and drinks with prices being fairly similar. We had fabulous meals in both. Here are a few of my favorite restaurants in each:
Attractions and Sites
Viña del Mar
In my opinion, Viña del Mar’s biggest attraction is the beach. It’s a long stretch of sandy beach and is perfect for enjoying a relaxing day. There are also a couple of museums worth checking out (Museo Belles Artes and Palacio Rioja Museum), Reloj de Flores (Flower Watch), and the Casino de Viña del Mar.
Then you have Valparaiso. Besides its many attractions, just walking through the streets on the various cerros is enough to fill your day(s) and be swept away in its charm. Not to be missed is La Sebastiana, 1 of 3 of Pablo Neruda’s quirky houses in Chile. Wonder atop Cerro Concepcion with sweeping views of Valparaiso. There are many museums in Valparaiso including Museo a Cielo Abierto (Open Air Museum), an outdoor area of murals by some of Chile’s best artists.
Finally, that leaves us with ‘how safe is Valparaiso’? Safety concerns were pretty much the determining factor when we made our decision whether to stay in Valparaiso or Viña del Mar. We were 2 women traveling and we had heard and read a lot of information about tourists getting mugged in Valparaiso. Even though we are well traveled, this was still a major concern for us.
In the end we chose Viña del Mar and visited Valparaiso on 2 of our 4 days that we spent on the coast. On neither of those 2 days that we visited, did we have any problems.
Just be cautious and aware of your surroundings. The area in Valpo, called The Plan, is more gritty and you need to be more careful there, especially at night. When we were atop Cerros Conception and Bellavista, we felt completely safe.
In the end we chose Viña del Mar mainly due to safety concerns. Whichever you decide on, you have to pick which is right for you. No choice is wrong. If you want to spend more time on the beach or are worried about safety pick Vina. If you want character, go with Valpo.
I hope this makes your decision making process easier and less stressful. I would love to hear your thoughts on which you chose and why.
Ciao, until next time!