In & Around Valdivia

We arrived in Valdivia on Thursday, thinking to stay a couple of days – we finally left the area on Tuesday!

Valdivia's waterfront as seen from the bridge

Valdivia’s waterfront as seen from the bridge. Our ‘Berta’ is standing near the tall ship in the far background.

We had been searching for a laundromat for the past couple of weeks – the last time we’d washed our clothes was my final week in Santiago, so over a month ago. Obviously we have too many clothes, if we lasted that long (or, perhaps we didn’t change them often enough)! Our first job on arrival in Valdivia was to find a laundry. We had some addresses from the internet and with the second one we struck gold. Not only was it there, but the women were very helpful and the price didn’t require us to take out a second mortgage on our camper. And, as a bonus, it was right across the road from a supermarket which we were also in need of.

Those two needs taken care of, we headed for a parking lot Juergen had found recommended twice on the internet, and it also turned out to be fairly perfect. It’s a commercial parking lot, right on the river, and they only charged 6000 Pesos a day – for 24 hours. They even handed over a key to the gate in case we wanted to come and go when there was no attendant. So, it was 3 for 3 with laundry, supermarket and a great place for camping, and all within a couple of hours of arrival.

Our riverfront parking in Valdivia

Our riverfront parking in Valdivia – can’t beat this for a commercial parking lot. Walking distance to everything…

We settled in and had dinner, and then decided to go for a walk around the area. We were on General Lagos and if we turned left, we knew we would end up in the centre. Since we planned to do that the following day, we turned right. And what an amazing number of interesting buildings we found, just within a few blocks of the parking lot. Most of them are built from corrugated or pressed tin (see our previous post), but there are also some timber houses. When we picked up a map at the tourist office the next day, we discovered that the area we walked that night was one of the main places in the city to see the old, mostly iron clad, buildings. A bonus to travelling further south is that we have daylight until quite late. We had eaten after 8 o’clock, then went for a walk for about an hour, and still arrived back at the parking place in time to watch the sun set, and the cormorants diving for small crabs in the river. The sunset was quite impressive, as we watched it over the river.

Sunset on the river - right in front of our camper

Sunset on the river – right in front of our camper. See why we loved the location for a parking lot?

On Friday we set off, out of the parking lot and turned left, to walk around the city. We followed the river to the main wharf. On the way we passed more interesting buildings and an old tower, a remnant of the wall that fortified the centre of Valdivia in the 18th century. The wharf area has the tourist office, a Foucault Pendulum, an undercover fish and produce market and all the tour boats leave from there. They offer cruises of the waters around Valdivia, and also down river to the villages of Niebla and Corral, which stand on either side of the mouth. We chose not to take a boat trip, which might have given us another perspective of the city, but they are really a bit expensive for our budget. Walking around the city, we came across many beautiful and/or interesting buildings, most of which are old but also some new ones, built to match or emulate the old style. These and the river make the city centre interesting, but otherwise it is not particularly attractive.

Produce (and fish) market in Valdivia at the waterfront

Produce (and fish) market in Valdivia at the waterfront.

We also crossed the river to Isla Teja. We walked through the university (Universidad Austral de Chile) looking for the Botanic Gardens. On arrival though we had second thoughts about heading into it – it looked totally overgrown, dark and damp, and potentially full of mosquitos. On Saturday, after we picked up our laundry, we again visited Isla Teja in order to check out the museums. There are three: Museo de la Exploracion Rudolf Phillippi, which is housed in a most beautiful iron clad building, but we were not interested in going in; Museo Historico y Antropologico, housed in Casa Anwandter, which is an impressive wooden building, right on the river – we did go in and discovered a lot of furniture from the 19th century (mostly of German origin) on the ground floor, and upstairs a rather meagre anthropology exhibit of the Mapuche; Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, housed in a modern style but fairly dilapidated glass and steel building, which we may have been interested in, however ‘the lights were on but nobody was home’.

Casa Carlos Anwandter, as seen across the river

Casa Carlos Anwandter (the yellow one on the right) as seen across the river (from our parking lot)

On Saturday afternoon, we drove on to Niebla. It is a relatively quiet and sleepy town, although we had heard that on weekends it is usually very busy. We found a huge parking lot high above the fishing wharf, which gave us an incredible view of the river. It turned out to be not really busy and we stayed 2 nights. We walked around the town – that didn’t take very long! There are ruins of a fort, but it is so covered with metal walkways that you can’t see much else, and it is under restoration, so we decided not to go in. There is also a rather small but pretty beach, complete with lifeguards. It was a great place to relax, catch up on some reading, catch up on some internet since we had a good connection (through our mobile internet stick), and generally wind down.

Lifesaver seat at Niebla beach

Lifesaver seat at Niebla beach

We also had time to re-think our plans, and decided that we wouldn’t travel much further south in Chile, because we needed to slow down. And we still want to spend some time around the lakes, both in Chile and Argentina. On Monday we left our peaceful spot and drove back to Valdivia. We wanted to give Berta some attention while we were in a city and found a Petrobras station which had a lubritorium to get all her important bits greased. Then we spent the night on Isla Teja down by the river. It wasn’t the best spot – there was a lot of rubbish around and groups of people liked to come down and sit by the river to drink and generally have a good time. It was rather noisy rather late, but once they left we slept well. On Tuesday we left Valdivia and headed for our first major lake – Lago Ranco.

Centro Cultural Valdivia

Centro Cultural Valdivia on Isla Teja – a lovely colonial wooden structure.

We don’t usually like to go into cities but, as cities go, Valdivia is a very manageable size. We found the things we needed there and the traffic was relatively light. It is an interesting city to spend a couple of days. Niebla was also great, for staying in a camper and having some downtime, but we are not so sure that it would be in February, when all the Chileans go on holidays!


dare2go's human navigator (we're not lost because there's nowhere particular we have to be) alongside our Nexus 7 tablet, writer and editor of our blog, first cook and loving wife. Teaching English as a second language when possible.

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