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two woman in wheelchairs dancing to a street musiciian playing the drums

A Guide to Wheelchair Accessible Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

Hello everyone!

My name is Valentina and I’m from Valparaíso, Chile. Recently, I was given the opportunity to map Valparaíso and Viña del Mar with Wheel the World. Here is a little bit about my experience and some tips for traveling in accessible Valparaíso and Viña del Mar.

My Experience

I studied ecotourism and in 2012, during my second year of university, I became interested in accessible tourism and adaptive sports.  At that time the sea was my greatest love, I liked surfing a lot (I still love it, but do it less now) and I was given the opportunity to participate as a volunteer in adaptive surfing workshops in Concon, Chile. From the very first day working as a surfing volunteer I realized what my path would be!

I wanted to contribute to inclusion and promote the fact that leisure, sport, recreation and tourism are for everyone. It’s a beautiful and healing experience to be out in the forest, the mountains, the river or the sea, and it should be accessible to everyone.

three women in outdoor clothing walking in a line. holding each others shoulders. the first woman is younger, the two behind her are older and have blindfolds on

I am an ecotourism guide and like all guides, I am very passionate about traveling. I love South America, Central America and above all our beautiful and unique Chile. 

I worked in Chilean Patagonia for three years at a Lodge called Ecocamp, in Torres del Paine National Park. It was there that I first heard about Wheel The World. I saw them in a video that they were showing at the hotel, of one of their experiences in Torres del Paine and I thought that it was one of the most beautiful projects of inclusive tourism that I had ever seen.

However,  I had to return to my hometown due to the pandemic and suddenly, an opportunity appeared with Wheel the World: To become one of their accessibility ambassadors and map the accessibility of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso.

Five people in trekking clothes, one in a wheelchair, posed in front of a jagged mountain range and lake
Valentina in Torres del Paine in Chilean Patagonia

Since I finished college, all of the projects that I had worked on were about inclusion, but they were rather theoretical. Thanks to this experience, I know way more about my city in terms of accessibility and inclusive tourism.

To map the accessibility of both cities, I used the Accessibility Mapping System that  Wheel the World’s team has developed.

I was able to map out the different locations through this system and send all of the information to Wheel the World. They will then be able to show  the detailed accessibility of the different attractions that I visited, so people can start traveling again!

The mapping process was not that easy in terms of the situation that we are living at the moment.

Searching for accommodations, restaurants, and places of recreation in a city under quarantine, where there was a lot of fear, many establishments were closed temporarily and others definitely, was quite sad, but still, there were a lot of professionals standing, trying to do their best for this new beginning!

After living so many years in the same place,  I discovered a lot of recreational spots. Way more than I thought. I found places that you can enjoy no matter how old you are, if you have a disability or not, if you are pregnant or any other condition. On the central coast of Chile, opportunity belongs to everyone!

Viña del Mar and Valparaiso are located on the central coast of Chile, approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes from Santiago. Both cities are very close to each other, but despite their proximity they are very different.

On the one hand we have Viña del Mar, well-known for its beaches, gardens, urban parks and buildings. On the other hand Valparaiso, which is recognized as a world heritage site and a main port. In Valparaíso, the colorful houses are spread out over hills. Stairs, elevators, and small steep streets connect the city and there is a lot of street art, making it a very beautiful and special city!

Accessible Transportation in Valparaíso and Viña del Mar

Between the cities of Viña del Mar and Valparaíso you can move around with the metro-train which is quite accessible in most of its stations but unfortunately there is only one line. The rest you have to do it on your own, since both cities’ public transportation is not accessible at all. 

I highly recommend moving along the coast of both cities, where you can enjoy the sea breeze, the beach, and if you like birds they have many species that you will be able to observe. I must tell you that at “Recta Las Salinas” you will find access ramps that will bring you to the beach. Some of them are quite steep, there are good sections and others not so good.

If you would like to move more independently and visit places within the city, it is better to hire private transportation. There is a company called GOXI that organizes trips from Santiago to the whole central coast and there is also the option of UberAccess which also operates in these cities. Both are good  options to get around by yourself!

So much moving and traveling around will probably make you hungry! 

Let’s take a look at some of the restaurants that I  visited in accessible Valparaiso and Viña del Mar.

Where to Eat in Accessible Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

In accessible Viña del Mar, if you decide to wander along the coast, you can head to West 2nd Street and  North 5th Street to visit A Mano Gin & Burgers for some great burgers and gin cocktails.

Or, if you are looking for something else you can go to North 8th Street with 4th Street to the pizzeria Otra Cozza,  good pizzas and super tasty! The customer service is the best and you have an access ramp with a good slope. The restaurant is large and the bathrooms have certain accessibility elements (the support bars, sliding doors and amplitude). 

If you don’t want to eat pizza, continue along the coast and turn off at North 13th Street, you should reach East 1st Street where you will find Mito sushi Nikkei, La Cabaña more traditional Chilean food, or Don Cucho for some Peruvian food or sandwiches.  Those three options are all next to each other, and if you feel like eating something sweet you can go to the next door to eat delicious cake or have a coffee at Candela Bistro. 

a dining room decorated with wood flooring, walls, and windowed wall with a ramp at the entrance
La Cabaña Restaurant with ramp

The places I have just mentioned have large entries with ramps for wheelchairs, a lot of space, and accessible bathrooms on the first floor (except for Don Cucho, which doesn’t have accessible bathrooms but the owner said you can use the neighbor’s).

In accessible Valparaiso you can visit the Panini Cafe which is located in Plaza Anibal Pinto. It has access and bathrooms for wheelchair users. You can also visit the Waddington cafe located in the Waddington neighborhood Playa Ancha, which is accessible for wheelchair users as well.

Accessible Attractions in Viña del Mar and Valparaiso

You are probably wondering what else can I do besides eat? What are the main attractions and which ones are accessible? Let’s start with Viña del Mar.

Something that you must do is to visit the coastal boardwalk of Viña del Mar, starting from the flower clock located in Caleta Abarca beach, to the end of “Recta Salinas”. It is a quite a long path and the accessibility depends a lot on the section that you find yourself in, but it is very beautiful.

You can pass through the Wulff Castle which has an interesting historical background. Meandering the coast, you will see Viña del Mar’s casino, the famous Peru Avenue, the Vergara dock which has good access, and Recta las Salinas beach. It’s a beautiful tour to experience the city!

a wooden boardwalk separates the road from a sandy beach
Recta Las Salinas Beach and Boardwalk

Another alternative in Viña del Mar is to visit the National Botanical Garden, the great urban green area of the city. You can spend the whole day going around the beautiful gardens and learning more about the flora of our country. You can also visit Quinta Vergara Park and get to know the Artequín museum and the amphitheater where great concerts and festivals are held (for example the Viña del Mar Festival).

In order to go to Valparaíso,  you can take the metro-train from Viña del Mar and get off at the different stations or you can go walking or rolling from Barón station along the coast towards the port. 

Speaking of the main attractions of Valparaíso, unfortunately there is little accessibility in its main attractions such as elevators, boat rides, and tours of the hills, but there are some accessible museums such as the Vicente Huidobro Museum and the National Maritime Museum, the latter located on Paseo 21 de Mayo in Playa Ancha, near the viewpoint with the same name. If you can’t visit the other viewpoints this one has an incredible view of the city and as I said before the Weddington cafeteria is located close by! Wheel the World also offers a variety of tours designed for wheelchair users in accessible Valparaiso, like an accessible sailing experience or cooking classes with a city tour.

Lift at the Maritime Museum in Valparaiso

Just outside of town (30 minutes from playa Ancha) following the same road that brings you to the town of Laguna Verde, you will arrive at Quebrada Verde Park, a great place to get away from the city for a couple of hours! 

This park has an universal access trail about 600 meters long, that will take you to an incredible viewpoint over the cliffs “Federico Santa Maria”. From here you have a panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean in all its splendor! The park has accessible bathrooms and a picnic area. 

Close to Valparaíso, following route 68, you will also find the Peñuelas National Reserve. There are also trails for wheelchair users and interpretative trails for the people with vision impairment.

If you like adventure sports, I recommend that you visit Concón, north of both cities. There, you can practice adaptive surfing with the Freesport Sports Academy at La Moca Beach, and also adaptive Kayak or Stand Up Paddle in the wetland of Concón.

a wooden structure with a front desk and a ramp covered in astroturf
Freesport Academy in Concon

You can also fly over the town of Maitencillo in the adaptive paragliding experience or get to know the underwater world and SCUBA dive in Valparaiso.

Difficult decision, I find them all wonderful!

Adaptive Surfing at La Boca Beach

Accessible Accommodation in Valparaiso and Viña del Mar

If you want to be able to visit all of these places,  you should stay more than one day. In the next section, I’ll tell you about some accommodations that have certain accessibility features, both in Viña and Valparaíso.

In Valparaíso you can stay at Casa Galos Hotel and Lofts. It’s a beautiful place, you can choose between rooms or lofts. Both options are fully equipped, very spacious, comfortable and feature accessible bathrooms. It’s located on Cerro Alegre, one of the most famous hills in Valparaíso.

Another good option is Casa Avenida Alemania. This hostel has accessibility on the first and second floors, in addition to the rooms and bathrooms.

Another alternative that I love located inland of both cities, is Olmue, also known as the Folk Capital of Chile. Located only 35 minutes from Viña del Mar, very close to the National Park and World Biosphere Reserve “La Campana”.

In Olmue, you can stay at “Natura Lodge and Spa” they have accessible cabins, spa, and huge green areas! The place is very quiet, cozy and familial, it’s ideal for a good break.

a bright blue sky over hills and a grass lawn with a line of one story hotel rooms on the right with patios
Natura Lodge and Spa in Olmue, Chile

The Region of Valparaiso is big and has many corners to explore – from beaches to mountains, forests, rivers, towns and cities. I have just left you little ideas to take into account when traveling here! 

I hope that you enjoyed all of the information I shared with you.

Let’s keep working together to make this world a little  more accessible for everyone. 

See you soon! Thank you all & Thank you Wheel the World!

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