Cerro Castillo (Castle Hill) is located in downtown Vi?a. It was home of a lot of rich people by the early 1900's. They built their houses on this hill because of the exquisite view of the Pacific Ocean and Valparaiso. On this hill you'll find the presidential summer house and a small castle, from where the hill got its name. This castle is owned now by the policemen, and they have their "entertainment centre" there.
There are no buses to take you up, but you can always walk. Don't go there during the night, as you might find drunk people on the stairs or even burglars.
Sea wolves are quite common on cold waters. These guys just eat and lay down their huge bodies on the rocks. You'll be able to see them rest and sometimes play.
Definately the best place to see them is on the way to Con Con, past Cochoa Beach.
If you come over in winter, and there is too much waves, you won't probably see them. Come on, these guys need to rest. They won't struggle to keep themselves on top of the rocks...
Maybe this won't make the usual "Must See Activities" on any tourist guide, but it's a house worth taking a peek.
Actually this house is made from the rock itself where it stands on, and its quite amazing how the rock was carved to make the house. I like to stop over and watch it, imaging it how it would be on the inside. It's current owner's won't probably let you go inside, but you'll be able to take some pics of it. If you're interested of course.
The main beach and the most "cool" beach is definately Renaca. Renaca itself is a northen district, not far from downtown Vina. The beach of Renaca is the place to be and to be seen during the summer.
1. The beach itself is divided into 5 "terrazas" (terraces), being the 1st one the most familiar part of the beach, while the last one, the 5th, is the most cool place to be.
2. Everyday during the summer, you can get free passes for most of the clubs in Vina. There will be girls giving them out around 6 pm.
3. Although Renaca is quite small, it has lots of places where you can buy stuff. But beware, since it's a tourist place, the prices will always be a little bit higher. Bargain is not usual in Chile, so it'll not help.
4. Most of the people go to the beach from noon until 8pm. After lunch is always quite crowded
5. Summer season in Chile is mostly from December to February, so don't expect people on the beach by July!
6. The water is quite cold (around 14 degrees), so if you're expecting caribean-like warm waters, forget it.
7. Topless sunbathing is not allowed and forbidden by law, and speedos are not the swimsuit you'll want to wear.
Vina's most great show is the Festival de la Cancion. It's usually during the 3rd week of February, and it's definately the main tourist attraction during that week.
The festival itself consists of many latin american and some european countries competing for the "gaviota de plata" (silver seagull) for their original songs. But what really makes the festival great is the singers they bring to fill up the rest of the nights. Mostly latin artists, but some american and european have also come. I've heard that Christina Aguilera is coming on February. If the Backstreet Boys came 3 years ago, why couldn't here come... (no comments).
Anyway, the tickets are sold downtown, and there are several locations with several prices.
The show itself is in the Quinta Vergara, a restored stage in Vina's park, near downtown.
Vina del Mar's Casino is the biggest casino in all of Chile. It's the first also. It has what every casino in the world has.
Dress code: no shorts allowed or sandals. Try wearing a shirt and pants. If you go with jeans, you won't be able to go into all the rooms.
It's usually crowded after 8 pm, and it open until 7 am. People from all ages go there and play some money.
The casino now has a 5 star hotel next to it. So if you want luxurious and expensive acomodations, this is the place.
One other thing: the casino itself has some nice gardens which are worth looking at.
If you don't get to go to Easter Island, you can still see a real moai.
At the Fock Museum there is one next to their entrance.
The museum itself is quite small and has some chilean natural history. Interesting is to see the goat with 2 heads.
Vina del Mar's founding family, the Vergara family, use to live at the Quinta Vergara. They built their house there and the whole quinta (estate) was their garden. The quinta itself has many chilean trees and flowers, and it's worth the visit.
The house itself is now a museum, with some interesting paintings from this century.
This small lagoon is the only one there is in Vina del Mar. It's has some nice walking trails and the view is quite nice.
The lagoon itself has a small beach, but I wouldn't recomend taking a bath. It was polluted some years ago. I don't know if they cleaned it up.
Try going during the day. It's not very safe during the night.
The coast street (costanera) from Renaca to Con Con is quite a beautiful way to see the ocean, and maybe the sunset. It starts from Renaca and it ends up in Con Con, where the Aconcagua river finds the sea. It's a 12 km street with nice views of the Pacific Ocean. There are a few landmarks that are worth seeing. I'll name them in order, from Renaca to Concon:
1. Sea wolves: Pasing Cochoa beach, you'll find lots of rocks where you can see the sea lions resting and playing on top of them. They are a very loud and quite large kind of seal.
2. The Roca Oceanica: It's quite a huge rock, where you can climb on top and see the Pacific Ocean in front of you.
3. The lighthouse: quite a small lighthouse, but I like it. It makes nice pictures.
4. The rock house: it's actually a house made from a rock and with the rock around it. It's current owners live there, but it's quite amazing. Stop over and take a peek.
The Muelle Vergara was used for putting cargo on the ships at the beginning of the XX century. Since Valparaiso grew as a port, this pier wasnt useful anymore and it stayed there, unattended. After a while, the city took care of it, and some restaurants and bars took place on it. From this time on, the bars and the restaurants have become bad, but the structure is still there. You can visit it and see the city from another angle.
Next to this landmark, some artcraft is sold, mostly on the weekends, and you can buy good stuff at a cheap price. Chileans do not bargain, so if you want to bargain, don't push it a lot, otherwise you won't buy anything.
This house used to belong to another wealthy family back in the early 1900's. It is now a museum and it has a nice small cinema, where you can find mostly european movies. It's closed on Mondays.
The house has been restored, and you can see how eary chileans used to live back in those years. Quite interesting.
This street it's very nice since it's 8 blocks long and it's right on the ocean. It's nice to have a walk. You can start in San Martin, and finish off behind the casino. The sunsets are worthwhile.
And if you're walking around, don't forget to try one of the "Bravissimo" ice creams. They're great. It's in front of the casino gardens.
I lived most of my childhood years in Viña del Mar, but I still don't know what this castle is all about. I just pass it along and never been inside. I think it's open to the public. Anyway, it's one of Viña's landmarks. If you want to take a picture like the one on the intro page, you've got to go to Avenida Peru. That's the spot.
One more thing: look at the big tree on top of the rock, right beside the Wulff Castle. I still don't know how it grows there.
This huge house belonged to another wealthy family back on the early 1900's. It's now the presidential summer house. Although you can't visit it on the inside, you can look at it from the Avenida Peru, and you can even go to the entrance and take a peek at the fine gardens.