Viña del Mar, or Viña, as most people call it, is a walkable city on the coast about an hour and a half from Santiago, Chile’s capital. Easy bus connections and short transit times between Santiago and Viña, as well as its steep, storied, colorful neighbor, Valparaíso, make Viña a common spot for both tourists and Chileans, only some of whom enter the casino and the pricey restaurants located there.
Viña is also considered “the garden city,” and public gardens such as Quinta Vergara, where the Viña song contest is held every summer, and the botanic gardens, make for peaceful places to sit and people watch or check out the local plant life. Viña’s Foncke Museum is also worth a visit, with exhibits with artifacts from many of the indigenous people of Chile, including the Rapa Nui (Easter Islanders).
But what calls to people most about Viña is its location by the sea. Though there is a central plaza, the walkway along the ocean turns into the de facto meeting place, and in the summer it fills up with families walking and biking, and vendors selling handicrafts. Skimboarding is also popular, but the waves aren’t really surfworthy, and the water is quite cold due to the Humboldt current which comes up from Antarctica. For more information on Viña del Mar, check out Matador, including the article on the best coastal towns in Chile.
Photo: Eileen Smith