Yesterday I went on a tour to Vina del Mar and Valparaiso, which are about 1 to 1/2 hours by car from Santiago and both are on the coast. The tour isn’t one I’d do again, too crowded, and not flexible, frustrating for me to see beautiful vistas and not be able to photograph them (I guess that’s what postcards are for though).
However, it was sort of like a hop on hop off bus you see in big cities (and the tour company also has hop on hop off bus tours in Santiago)…you get an idea of where you would like to return for a longer visit.
Vina del Mar is a beachside community of about 250,000 (swelling to a million during summer months). We stopped for 30 minutes at one big beach and the air felt fresh (compared to Santiago which is very very smoggy, LA has nothing on Santiago in that respect). The beach we stopped at had a lot of activities, but not many swimmers, the water there in the South Pacific is cold. There were kids’ playgrounds galore and also exercise machines and stations for adults all along the boardwalk. I walked down to the rocks at one end and climbed partway up, and the ocean is always soothing when it’s not too crowded.
We had a lunch stop at a casino, but I walked during the break as did many of the people from the bus, and saw a lot of birds near the sea.
The other thing that’s interesting here in Chile is the number of stray dogs everywhere. None seem too threatening or particularly starved, but there are thousands of them…sort of like the cats in Turkey (so many stray ones..).
We did walk around Valparaiso a little bit, then back to Santiago. Today I went to the Santa Lucia market and then walked up to the top of Santa Lucia hill where there’s a good view of the city. Unfortunately it was pretty cloudy/smoggy so there wasn’t much to see. The market was pretty good, lots of local crafts, and tons of Lapiz which is plentiful in Chile.