A 15min bus or train ride is all it takes to exchange the colourful cerros and chaotic alleys of Valparaíso for the tree-lined avenues and ostentatious high-rises of VIÑA DEL MAR. This is Chile’s largest and best-known beach resort, drawing tens of thousands of mostly Chilean vacationers each summer. In many ways, it’s indistinguishable from beach resorts elsewhere in the world, with oceanfront condos, bars, restaurants and a casino. But lurking in the older corners of town are extravagant palaces, elegant villas and sumptuous gardens. Many date from the late nineteenth century when Viña del Mar – then a large hacienda – was subdivided into plots that were sold or rented to the wealthy families of Valparaíso and Santiago who came to spend their summers by the sea. The city also has a pair of beautiful botanical gardens and a museum with an important collection of Easter Island art.
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