The port of Valparaiso is one of Chile's most interesting cities, known for its brightly painted buildings that extend in seemingly chaotic fashion across more than 40 cerros - hills - that rise up from the Pacific Ocean. The ramshackle layout of the cerros and the fine sea views afforded from them have been sources of inspiration for artists and poets down the years. Pablo Neruda was one such figure, and a visit to his Valparaiso home, La Sebastiana, is a highlight for many visitors to the city.
A bohemian feel pervades much of Valparaiso to this day, with large-scale murals, art galleries, cosy bars and cafés among the narrow alleyways and plazas of the city. The lower part of the city - known as ‘El Plan' - is the business district, with modern office buildings and a few grand colonial mansions that have survived raids by pirates, fires and earthquakes over the years. A notable landmark here is Plaza Sotomayor, where stands an impressive monument to the ‘Heroes of the Battle of Iquique'.