Welcome to Chile’s oldest city and the fascinating gateway to the central valley and the country’s capital, Santiago.  Valparaiso welcomes passengers with an exciting first impression as you sail into the glamorous bay here.  Surrounded by Victorian homes, steep hills and cable cars, this destination almost portrays a scene reminiscent to that of San Francisco.  Valparaiso is the port of call but a visit here is all about the stunning city of Santiago, situated in a phenomenal location at the feet of the snowcapped Andes. 

You’ll need to have your camera ready when you visit here as there is so much to see.  The historical sights of Santiago combine beautifully with modern innovations and any excursion tour here will cover the major attractions including the Club Hipico Horseracing Track, Plaza de Armas and the Cathedral.  You will also have the chance to head for the San Cristobal Hill, a location renowned for its tremendous beauty and for providing an amazing spot for spectacular sweeping views of the city and the Andes.  Plaza de Armas is the city’s main square and is a great place to soak up the lively local atmosphere.  Here you can meander the gardens, take in native music or simply relax and enjoy the mood.  The square was once the civic centre of the city when founded by the Spaniards in the 16th century. 

Sightseeing opportunities here are endless.  A popular attraction is the Maritime Museum, situated in an impressive location at the top of a hill and offering visitors the chance to explore a range of historical former navy features amongst the neoclassical mansion surroundings.  There’s also the centre for arts, La Sebastiana, the former location of poet Pablo Neruda and built by famous architect Sebastian Collao.  Heading back to museums, there is also the Fonck Museum and the National History Museum that present popular attractions.  Fonck Museum greets passengers with a 500 year old stone head from Easter Island set at its entrance.  The museum is named after Francisco Fonck, a Vina del Mar native and archaeologist.  The National History Museum here is filled with incredible exhibits including a wide collection of historical objects from colonial times.  Now a museum, the building was once the former Palacio de la Real Audiencia. 

For unique shopping, head to the handicraft market, Los Dominicos, a popular place to explore due to the many numerous shops to witness some of the finest artisans at work.  Alternatively wine connoisseurs may wish to visit the charming pleasures of the Casablanca Valley, home to vineyards since 1875.  A location built on wine, this beautiful area did not discover its true potential until the 1980’s when it was truly understood how the valleys orientation and soil conditions were able to harness the most superb wine conditions.  You will discover how the ocean breeze is able to cool the grapes whilst on the vine, ensuring the final result is an immensely popular fruity wine.  The soil conditions here are extremely similar to that of California’s Napa and Sonoma Valleys.  The heart of Casablanca Valley is a great place to visit and many cruise lines will provide the opportunity to visit either a specific or a collection of vineyards for you to gain greater insight into the wine making process and have the chance to sample some of the sumptuous tastes yourself.

It’s often worth planning your day here before you arrive as although heading ashore independently to explore is a definite option, it is often much better to take advantage of an excursion to get a real feel for this beautiful destination.  When planning your day, one area you must consider is the enchanting Vina del Mar, one of Chile’s most popular tourism locations.  Often referred to as “The Garden City”, this stunning area was once the retreat for affluent ‘portenos’ from Valparaiso.  The affluent visitors developed their own personal exclusive mansions with incredible gardens to match.  In modern times these gardens have now become the city’s parks, filled with a magnificent array of exotic plants from all over the globe.  The entrance to the city is signified by the famous landmark, the Floral Clock.  Upon you arrival here the choice is yours to explore.  Vina del Mar is home to the country’s oldest casino as well as a superb range of sublime restaurants not forgetting the most spectacular beaches.  Soak up the sunshine, relax and unwind as Vina del Mar will wash away any stresses you once had.

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