The city of Viña del Mar is one of the most important and popular destinations in Chile, lying in a lovely spot on the Pacific Coast of the country, just an hour's drive away from the capital Santiago.
It is fair to say that the majority of people will be drawn here because of the quality of its beaches, but there is actually a reasonable amount of places to go and things to do during your visit. Planning your first trip to a new destination can leave you at a loose end in terms of booking your accommodation and deciding what to do, so here's a little inspiration to get you going.
The Beaches of Viña Del Mar
The golden sand stretches of Viña del Mar are among the most popular in the country, and on weekends you will often find the area busy, particularly during the peak months from December to February.
The sand stretches for a good distance in each direction away from the city, making it ideal for a gentle walk on the beach, and at the northern end of the beach, there is also an interesting naval museum worth visiting. However, one thing to note is that you will find some strong currents if you intend to go swimming, so be careful if you are thinking of taking a dip in the sea.
Sites to Visit During Your Trip
During your trip to Viña del Mar, you must visit the gardens of La Quinta Vergara, which boasts plants that have been imported from different regions around the world. Another beautiful spot that is just off the beach is the Parque Reloj de Flores, which is a huge flower bed with a clock mechanism in the middle and is one of the most interesting places in the city.
You can also visit the quirky Castillo Wulff, a castle built on a small rocky outcropping along the beach, which seems slightly out of place with dramatic European architecture in this particular location.
What to Do
Castillo Wulff is also home to a casino, of which there are several in Viña del Mar, and there are many people who come down from Santiago because they enjoy playing in the casinos of the city.
La Quinta Vergara is also home to one of the city's most famous festivals, held at the end of February every year, and as well as being a musical celebration, it is also known as the end of the summer there.
The city is also home to some great bakeries, so try to seek out one of the places specializing in 'alfajores', a biscuit stuffed with fruit preserves or dulce de leche.
Where to Stay
As you would expect in such a popular city there is no shortage of accommodation, with many of the largest hotels occupying a position facing on to the Pacific on the waterfront.
For luxury, you can opt for international names such as the Sheraton, or the more unusual Hotel Boutique Castillo Medieval offers another comfortable option in the city. For budget travelers, there is a good selection of hostels and budget B&B options such as the Valparaiso Villa and Hotel Genross which are worth considering.
How to Get Around
The introduction of a metro system of buses around Viña del Mar has eased the problem of getting around for visitors over the last decade, and the buses are an inexpensive and usually convenient way of getting around the city.
If you would like something a little more comfortable and quick, then you will often find 'Colectivo' stops throughout the city, which are cheaper than taxis, but still quicker in many cases than the bus network.