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Aside from being the largest display for New Year's Eve fireworks in all of Chile, Valparaíso is one of the nation's busiest ports, and one of its most colorful destinations.

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With houses stilted and built into a series of hills and painted many colors, and lots of street art, it makes for an attractive backdrop for long walks, photography and tasting some of the best seafood the country has to offer. The city also has several well-known museums, including the Fonck, which has collections from many of Chilean's indigenous groups, and La Sebastiana, one of the three houses-turned-musems formerly owned by the famous Chilean poet, Pablo Neruda.

Valparaíso is probably best known and visited for the acensores, a series of near-vertical funicular elevators that take visitors and locals up to the top of the various hills, with the most-visited being Cerro Bellavista, Cerro Alegre and Cerro Concepción. From the top, there are views of the port and the city's "plan" (grid) below. Once a year there's a hairy urban downhill bike race down a bumpy course through the hills.

Valparaíso is an hour and a half bus ride from Santiago, and is located a fifteen-minute ride (by bus or Merval, the area's modern metro) from Viña del Mar, the "garden city" of Chile. Check out articles on what to do in Valparaíso on Matador.

Photo: Eileen Smith

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