|Topography and Coastline
Like many other Chilean coastal towns and cities, Viña consists of two areas: one of winding streets and houses precariously clinging to the hills, the other, following the traditional colonial grid plan, takes up most of the flat area between the hills and coastline. Hailed as the tourist capital of Chile, it is constructed on some 172,25 square kilometres with just over 300 thousand inhabitants. From Abarca Cove to Salinas the resort stretches for 3,5 kilometres with made up by Acapulco, Mirasol and Los Marineros beaches, among others. Added to all this are the 2kms. of beach in the Reñaca district, which has become a new centre of holiday activities, with a wide offering of hotels, shopping centres, restaurants and discotheques.
Only thirty years ago all this land was claimed by dunes and forests, but today it is an important tourist and residential area with new neighbourhoods such as El Jardín del Mar, Las Golondrinas and Los Pinos appearing in a relatively short period of time.
More to the North one finds the gastronomic quarter with restaurants ranging from the humble Don Chicho to the chic Stella Maris, serving the local specialities of fish and shellfish.
Facing the mighty Pacific Ocean as it rages against the coastal rocks, are the popular Cochoa and Lilenes beaches, although on the new administration map of the area these no longer form part of Viña del Mar but of the newly-created Concón district. Between the two, a visitor to the city will find many places of interest such as Mirador Cochoa, la Roca de Lobos Marinos with sea lions basking in the mid-afternoon sun or a rock outcrop called the Oceanic rock. This coastal stretch finishes in Higuerillas Cove where an exclusive Yacht Club has its home as well as the popular Negra and Amarilla beaches.
Narrow strips of the original dunes still remain, serving local children as slopes from which they slide down at neck breaking speed on makeshift sand-toboggans.
The City Centre
Formed in the shape of a rectangle, its southern border is established by the railway line and to the north by the Marga Marga Estuary. Towards the east the Plaza José Francisco Vergara can be found, and to the west the gently wooded Castillo Hill. These then are the confines of the main financial and shopping area in the city, whose main street is the Avenida Valparaíso.
Being true to the tourist character of their city, it is not uncommon to see the inhabitants stop whatever it is they are doing at around midday to have a cup of coffee in one of the many traditional cafeterias to be found here. Two hours later, at 2pm, all local banks cease their activity as do many of the stores, the latter only to open at 4.30pm when the afternoon begins to cool down. Most of the city's shops serve customers late into the evening ' a custom considered provincial but which caters well for visitors and locals alike.
Following the axis of Avenida Libertad one will find the famous colonial grid street system locally called 'de los nortes'. On the left of the Avenue six streets shoot off to the west, on the right seven head east. From north to south there are in total fifteen streets completing the grid. This is one of the most sought after residential neighbourhoods, with the spirit of the past stamped firmly in its architecture. But today, many of what used to be private dwellings are home to restaurants and pubs, so making their contribution to the city's leisure and recreation facilities.
The climate is generally considered to be Mediterranean, with rains restricted exclusively to the winter season. Proximity to the sea means that the land temperatures are regulated by ocean currents during the summer and winter months (October to March and April to September respectively) making the former warm and pleasant and the latter mild, with temperatures ranging between 10 and 22 degrees C. The mild climate and lack of morning frost in winter has helped the growth of robust vegetation, including both autochthonous and imported species, with such plants as the bougainvillaea, hibiscus and golden thimbles, whose gilted petals can often be seen creeping up between railway sleepers.
Viña is located 119 kms from Santiago, 75 minutes by car from the capital's international airport. The main access point is through Agua Santa by Motorway 68 (Ruta 68) from the South. One of the main advantages of this road is the spectacular view of Valparaíso Bay, especially at night-time when lights twinkle on surrounding hills and from ships anchored in the bay. As soon as you reach the outskirts of Viña del Mar, you will see dozens of residential dwellings so clearly representative of the early 20th century.
Another access point coming from the direction of the interior valley is Camino Troncal, following the railway line, which leads to the eastern part of the city. Regional buses come down route 68 but they take a detour which takes them first to Las Palmas, then the area called El Salto, now a bustling industrial sector, and finally to Rodoviario. Along the way are some of the most important Chilean palm tree plantations in the country ' an autochthonous variety similar to the type that used to forest Easter Island. Formerly rampant in the Central Valley, the plant is now in danger of following its distant cousin into extinction. Despite a strict prohibition, local inhabitants from squats and shanty towns, collect the diminutive coconuts, the size of a small plum, and sell them as confectionery on the central streets of the city.
Motorway 60 (Ruta 60) is the main road used by visitors coming from neighbouring Argentina, passing first through Quillota and Concón. One of the main attractions of this road is the picturesque landscape along the way. This route is also used by those coming to Viña del Mar from the coastal villages further to the north.
Mother Earth Travel > Chile > Vina Del Mar > History