La Serena & Valparaíso - Chile
Okay so we broke up the excessively long bus from San Pedro to Valparaíso with a stop in La Serena. We stayed in hostel Cosmo Elqui which is a party hostel and it gets pretty lively so maybe not the best option if you don't want to party!
La Serena itself reminded me of a British seaside town; there were buckets and spades, ice creams, people selling lollies and all sorts of beach things. I wouldn't stay here for too long but one night was ideal. We walked to the beach and along the front where we caught a surfing competition! In town there were lots of market stalls and the cathedral, a few other impressive buildings and the open area sculpture park/museum. We didn't do much else due to time constraints and not wanting to pay entry for too many things... however it's worth a stop just for a nice beach walk!
Valparaiso is an interesting one, on first impressions it is undeniably filthy and the streets smell and look gross. However once you explore you'll find the nice side of the city with impressive architecture, big squares, a reliable and affordable metro system and 50 hills which make up the city. There's the shipping port and the funiculars, the street art, museums and good restaurants too!
The things we did were; Tours4Tips Walking Tour in the morning which takes you around the city (and even on a public bus) for 3 hours and you can learn and see a lot in a short space of time so this is a good, cost-effective and fun way to get to know the city. We also took funiculars to various neighbourhoods and took a boat ride from the port which is a 30 minute round trip where you can see sealions, the port at work, navy ships and have a nice view back on the city.
We managed to be in Valparaiso at a good time and we caught the tail end of some festival so we went to a free concert in one of the main squares which was cool.
The metro is a great system so we hopped on it for 15 minutes and headed down to Viña Del Mar to see the Flower Clock and to visit the beach - this town is cleaner and a bit nicer but it's more a holiday home kind of place and therefore a bit more touristic and expensive but nice nonetheless. Another highlight in Valparaíso was to do a Street Art Walking Tour where we learnt about the different types, the etiquette and generally just saw some amazing artistic pieces and murals on buildings.
Last but not least, we also tried the "typical" meal of a hot dog covered in avocado, fresh chopped up tomatoes and mayo. Not good for the waistline I'm sure but it was great!
We stayed in Escarabajo Hostel which was all well and good until we were exiled from our room all day due to bedbugs and they were having a deep clean. They put the right procedures in place and were very honest with us as well as giving us that night free so they dealt with it efficiently! Just not ideal to not have a room to go to for 12 hours when it was hot and we wanted things from our bags etc...