South America Tourist Guide
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Valparaíso on the Pacific coast of Central Chile is widely known for its bohemian culture, brightly colored houses, and beautiful seaside views.
Valparaíso is one of the Chile’s most important seaports and an increasing cultural center in the Southwest Pacific hemisphere. A large percentage of Chilean exports go through Valparaíso, and many cruise ships use it as a stopover port. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region. Although Santiago is Chile's official capital, the National Congress of Chile was established in Valparaíso in 1990, and the city is therefore the seat of legislative power as well as home to Chile's naval headquarters.
In 2003 Valparaíso was declared a World Heritage Site, due to its historical importance, natural beauty, original architecture and layout. The city has many picturesque streets, passages and walkways, as well as a large number of historical Monuments. One of the oldest is the 'La Matriz del Salvador' church in the port area just below the Santa Domingo Hill. Inside the church you will find the 'Cristo de la Agonía', the sculpture of Christ that was a gift from the Spanish monarchs to the Metropolitan Cathedral. It was carved in wood in the late 1600's and is taken on procession through a part of the city every Good Friday.

Valparaíso has the entire infrastructure needed for being the great tourist city it is; among these are great hotels, restaurants and the numerous beaches found along the coast. They are quite pretty but not very friendly for swimming due to rough seas. The beach town Viña del Mar is only ten minutes by train from Valparaíso, and slightly longer by bus. It's the most important beach in country. It also plays host to a famous music festival every year in mid-February.
During the last week in the year, Valparaíso holds an annual carnival. Each year the festival centers on a different country, from which performers and artists are invited to come and represent their culture and their work in theater, music, and the performance arts. Most activities are free and are held outdoors. The celebration culminates with spectacular New Year fireworks that explode over the harbor of Valparaíso. The show draws immense crowds with people arriving and saving their place in the early morning in order to keep their prime viewing spots.

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