Culture Corner

City Overview
Points of Interest
Cultural Highlights
Money Matters

View Valparaiso and Vina del Mar in a larger map
Breathtaking view of the sparkling bay and colorful city of Valparaiso from atop one of the many hills.

What are Valparaíso and Viña del Mar like?

Valparaíso, located 68 miles northwest of Santiago, is Chile's primary commercial harbor. The city gives both entrance and exit to the increasing international exchange of commodities and business activities. As both location of the legislative power and capital city of the Valparaiso Region of Chile, a national political division, this city contains the home offices of many of the main agencies that make up the organization of the Chilean nation, such as the Intendencia Regional, the top local authority, the Gobernación Regional, the Consejo de Desarrollo Regional, the Secretarías Ministeriales Regionales and all other main divisions of the government services. You can also find the Chilean Navy headquarters in Valparaíso.

With a population of roughly 284,000 inhabitants, Valparaíso houses four traditional universities and many other relatively new private institutes.Valparaíso, known by locals as just Valpo, is a city with a very unique layout. Its architecture climbs up the sides of 48 hills which surround the bay and feature an impressive layout of streets, alleys and stairways. Its old-fashioned lifts, acensores, with their characteristic yellow and red colors, were built over 100 years ago and are still used today. They provide tourists and residents access to its picturesque hillside neighborhoods. The intricate alleys hide many architectural treasures such as colonial churches and beautiful miradores. The financial and commercial activity of the port city takes place in the beautiful old English-style buildings of "El Plan" in the lower part of the city.

Viña del Mar, where students may be living and/or attending classes, is a coastal town separated from Valparaíso by a single street, and it has roughly the same population as Valparaíso. Though physically close, the cities vary greatly in style. From the winding, chaotic streets of Valparaíso, the uniform, block-style streets of Viña may come as a surprise. The brightly-colored houses on the hillsides in Valparaíso make way for neutral-toned high-rise buildings in Viña. Built more recently than Valpo and with the purpose of promoting tourism, Viña is a social and commercial hub, boasting some of the most popular beaches in the region!Your experience with ISA in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar will give you the opportunity to experience the Chilean culture, form friendships with Chileans, and expand your understanding of the country. These experiences are facilitated by Valparaíso's relative lack of tourists, and the preservation of its culture and its architecture. It's up to you to take advantage of all that Chile and ISA offer, and broaden your cultural horizons!

Region and Population

Valparaíso and Viña del Mar are located in central Chile, halfway down the Pacific coast. The region acts as a meeting point between the foothills of the Andes mountains and the sparkling waters of the Pacific Ocean. With a total population of 564,000 these sister cities are full of life and culture.

Time Zones:
*From October to April the time zone is 2 hours later than Eastern Standard time.
*For the rest of the year the time zone is the same as Eastern Standard time.


Chile's climate makes a steady transition between the extreme arid heat of the desert north to the bitterly cold and wet conditions of the far south. The central region is generally mild and temperate, especially on the coast, where temperatures range from 40°F to 70°F. Remember that the seasons are backwards from what you are used to in the United States! July and August are the coldest months, while the warmest months are from November to February. The rainiest months are from late April to early October. The rest of the year (October to April) is quite comfortable when the days are almost always beautiful, although January can be quite hot. Layering clothing is crucial, as temperature can vary greatly, even over the course of one day. For example, sunny winter days can heat up somewhat in the afternoons, and hot summer days can be rather cool at night.

Houses/apartments in Chile have space heaters instead of central heating, so pack accordingly! Keep in mind that winters (May through August) are quite cold, so be sure to bring a jacket and warm clothes. You should be prepared for just about everything, especially if you plan to travel to the extreme northern or southern parts of the country or to places of high altitude.

**Average monthly highs and lows (degrees Fahrenheit) and rainfall (inches) in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar**

Avg. Rainfall.

Helpful Links

  • UNESCO World Heritage Center - Chile
  • CDC Website
  • Dept of State Website