Viña del Mar
Viña del Mar (pronounced Vinea del Maar) is a coastal city close to the capital Santiago and a slightly lesser-known city to its neighbour Valparaiso. Despite being neighbours the cities have very little in common, Viña being a playground of rich capitalists looking to relax at the beaches and enjoy their summers and Valparaiso famous for its murals, graffiti and anarchist views about society with socialist tendencies.
Read my country guide about Chile to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
I really enjoyed my time here, being the last leg of my trip, I was looking for some relaxation and Viña didn’t disappoint at all.
Fun Fact: Viña del Mar is famous for its beaches and it is host to the summer residence of the president of Chile. The residence and its palace are perched on top of a hill overlooking the ocean.
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Getting to Viña del Mar
The nearest airport is Santiago and there are direct shuttles buses from the airport if you are using LAN airline. Otherwise, you have to go to Santiago to take a 2-hour bus to Viña del Mar bus terminal.
From Santiago the buses to Vina del Mar go from out three metro stations; Central station, Santiago University and Pajaritos station. They are all on the red line and it is best to take the bus from Pajaraitos station because if you start from Central station, you will pay extra and end up stopping at all three stations anyway. If you are coming from airport, Pajaraitos is 15 minutes bus ride away from the airport.
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Where to Stay in Viña del Mar
Viña is not a big city and there is accommodation available for all budgets. I found it best to stay close to the beach to enjoy the morning breeze as well. I got a nice Airbnb not far from the flower clock which was close to the city beach as well as Miramar metro station.
Tip: The further you are on the top of the hill, the farther you are from public transport.
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Viña del Mar or Valparaiso?
This is more straightforward than I thought and has everything to do with what you prefer. Valparaiso is full of mainly hostels and has a quirky character but it isn’t the cleanest of places. The city beaches leave a lot to be desired. If you prefer a quieter, cleaner coastal town with beaches and city lined with apartment blocks, Vina del Mar is your place. On the other hand, if you enjoy a more student-ish environment with a bit of adventure, Valparaiso is the perfect city for you, it has a lot more of an individual character.
It was the last leg of my month leg trip and I needed to relax which is why I chose to stay in Vina del Mar. It doesn’t really make much of a difference practically because to go between the two neighbouring cities, it doesn’t take more than 15-20 minutes maximum.
When to Visit Viña del Mar
Summer is the short answer. This is a summer town definitely. I am not sure there’d be much to do here in winter or during rain. I visited in the beginning of January with perfect weather.
How long to stay in Viña del Mar
It depends on you but generally 2-3 days are enough for Viña del Mar. I spent 4 days here with 2 days dedicated to Valparaiso and 2 days in Viña del Mar; one day to walk around and explore and 1 day at the beach and spa to wind down before my departure.
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Public Transport in Viña del Mar
There is a metro line that runs through the city and goes all the way to Valparaiso. There are also buses which were the most fun I found in Chile. The guys drive really fast and stop just enough for you to get on and off, absolutely loved riding those to Valparaiso a couple of times coming back later in the evening when metro stops. The buses in the city have colours and numbers which are a bit hard to decipher, uber solved the problem when walking was too much in these cases.
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Travelling between Valparaiso and Viña del Mar
It is very easy to travel between the two cities. There are three options:
Metro – I bought a metro Valparaiso card and took the metro from Miramar station to Valparaiso Puerto station to get to Sotomayor square. The ride was 10 minutes long and trains run every 10 minutes. On Vina side, the lines are underground but you ride along the coast over ground throughout the remainder of the line.
Buses – There’s plenty of buses that run between the two cities and are very cheap as well. Google maps helped massively. Usually the buses stop when you signal them and bus stops aren’t marked much or maybe the protestors and rioting rip them out but it was not hard to stop the buses. The journey times depend on traffic but in the evenings, it was around 10-15 minutes.
Uber – Uber is quite cheap and readily available in both the cities.
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Food in Viña del Mar
There are a lot of nice restaurants in the city and most of them are Peruvian. Peruvian food is all the rage and dear lord it is delicious. The ceviches, traditios, chaufa rice; I just drooled a little bit thinking about it. I couldn’t find a nice steakhouse unfortunately but couldn’t find much. This is a seafood place anyway and variety is endless.
I made the mistake of trying sushi, it was the worst I have ever had in my life. The rolls had a very thick coating of rice and had crème fraiche in them.
If you want to get recommendations check out my Instagram stories above.
Things to do in Viña del Mar
There isn’t much to do in cultural terms here but there’s still enough not to get bored and feel like you haven’t had any culture during my break.
Three castles of Viña del Mar
There are three beautiful small castles:
Half emerging from the mountain over the beach, it is the biggest castle and is a hotel/restaurant. I am not sure why it is called Arab castle because it looks like a European style building but perhaps it has to do with the occupants in the past.
Fun Fact: There’s a significant Arab population in this region and I was amazed to find a statue of Khalil Gibran under the castle on the beach road. What a beautiful and pleasant surprise!
This castle is located on the hilltop and another beautiful little castle to admire.
The cutest of the castles, it is located at the beach, visiting is easy but a bit boring.
Walking on the beach isn’t much of n option because city beaches are a bit small but the promenade of Viña is very beautiful especially in the evenings. I loved watching the sunset here. Valparaiso isn’t a sunset city but Viña is and the promenade takes full advantage of that. I loved walking from Playa Caleta all the way across the promenade to the other side of the city near the casino.
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Free Walking Tour
There is a free walking tour in Vine del Mar that doesn’t run every day but it is quite helpful. It is the best way to see the cultural side of this beautiful city. Sadly, I didn’t take the tour because of the days I was there it didn’t run but free walking tours are my favourite way to start exploring the cities.
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This is sort of the symbol of Viña and everyone comes to see this flower clock. At first it must be a metallic clock made in the shape of a flower but refreshingly it is a clock face made of actual flowers and the gardeners put a lot of effort to keep this gorgeous clock face in pristine condition.
Tip: For great photos go in the second half of the day for great light.
Beaches of Viña del Mar
There are plenty of beaches in Viña, you really are spoiled for choice here but due to limited time I decided to go to two beaches:
Playa de Reñaca
This is the beach to be with its golden sand and beautiful water. It is perhaps the most famous and the most beautiful of all beaches here. I spent my last day of the trip on this beach and it slowly washed away the sadness of leaving. It is a bit far from the city and I took an uber but it is easy to come here on the bus as well.
Playa Caleta Abarca
It is the city beach and was the closest to me. It is also quite lively with lots of locals and people chilling and doing all sort of things from yoga to ball games to just sitting with a beer. It is the perfect place to watch the sunset on the beach.
Quinta Vergara Park
Viña is famous for its gorgeous beaches and its perfectly manicured parks and this is the king of all those parks. It is a big park and whether you want to run around or just sit and relax on a sunny, hot day, this is the place for you. I spent a full afternoon here first exploring the park from its beautiful green areas lined with flowers to the big concert arena and then chilling in a secluded area listening to my e-book (Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, AN ABSOLUTE MASTERPIECE!)
Nearest Metro Station: Viña del Mar
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Sunset at Cerro Castillo
The best spot to watch the sunset over this beautiful city! It was my first day and after a little bit of walk on the promenade I dipped my feet in the ocean and met a local who brought me here to watch the sunset. It was a small area with some grass and a bench and a platform to sit and watch the sunset. There were a few locals there and we joined them. The sun went down beautifully across the horizon leaving behind a tinge of orange, I knew it would be fun being in this city and the praise was worth the place.
Relax at the Spa
I love going to spas and it was only natural I’d want that from my last leg of the journey. I booked it for my last day with Reñaca beach. A massage followed by a relaxing spa session at Renaca Hotel Spa. It is a mile away from the beach but a quaint spa with lots of greenery around. I chilled in the sun some more before heading back to the beach and saw another spa on the way to the city which was at the seafront; Roy Soothers spa. I wish I have had more time for that but if you are looking for options this is the other place.
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What do you think of Vina del Mar? Have you visited this city or would like to go? I’d love to hear from you.