For nonnatives of Valparaíso (population 275,141), 120 kilometers northwest of Santiago via Ruta 68, orientation can be a challenge. Along the Bahía de Valparaíso’s curving shoreline, built largely on fill, the relatively regular downtown area consists of long east–west streets and avenues, crossed by short, mostly north–south streets and alleyways.
Northwest of Cerro Concepción, marked by the Reloj Turri clock tower and the Mercurio de Valparaíso newspaper headquarters, this narrow coastal strip is generally known as the Barrio Puerto; to the east, the wider level area is El Almendral. Merval, the regional rail transit system, parallels the shoreline.
In the spontaneously gridless hills neighborhoods, though, all bets are off. A free but basic map, available at the tourist office, is essential, but a more detailed version such as the one in Turistel’s Centro volume is a good idea. Even the best map, though, can’t cover every winding medieval staircase and passageway.
© Wayne Bernhardson from Moon Chile, 2nd edition