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Nostalgia stayed to live in this port because history lost its yellowish pages in its streets. Discovered in 1536 by the Spaniard captain Don Juan de Saavedra, who arrived by land trying to locate one of the ships that was sent by Diego de Almagro in his conquest expedition. He finds the ship called “Santiaguillo”, that was waiting in the small Quintil bay, and decides to name the whole place “Valparaíso” in honor to Valparaíso (Paradise Valley) in Cuenca – Spain.

Valparaíso sealed its destiny bounded to the sea. It grew as a village and started becoming important. Already in the XIX century, Valparaíso turns into a busy place of economical importance, in one of the most important ports of the Pacific coast, in the obligatory stopping halt after crossing Cape Horn and a springboard to reach the North American coasts. The city grows and agitates, turning into a cosmopolite and dynamic metropolis.

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The immigrants, with the aesthetical influences that are typical of their countries and the memories of their lands, begin to model a space and shape that characterizes the old Valparaíso. This air of romanticism, tradition, gives the city a nostalgic character, which feeds the soul of poets, filmmakers and artists that gather in coffee shops and bars developing intellectual life alongside bohemian life. Charles Darwin spent some time in Valparaíso after he crossed Cape Horn; the writer from Nicaragua Rubén Darío worked in Valparaíso as a customs official, and it is said that this experience inspired his book “azul” (Blue); Pablo Neruda built in Valparaíso “ La Sebastiana ”, one of his delirious houses where the poet blew the sails of his poetry with winds of inspiration.

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Time Line ( The historical information and the dates published are only a reference )

The bay of Valparaíso was inhabited by the Chango Indians who called it Alimapu (burned land) valley and Quintil bay. The changos dedicated themselves to fishing and gathering shellfish and inhabited the hillsides that were near the beaches and places where they fished. They exchanged things with the interior cultures, particularly in order to obtain pots, since gatherers are nomads and generally do not produce pots. They also are known as the culture of seashells. These were the original inhabitants of Valparaíso who belonged to the southern section of the Inca empire.

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The Santiaguillo sighted land in the bay of Valparaíso (Quintil). This ship formed part of a small group of ships that brought supplies for the first scouting detachment of Diego de Almagro, who received the mission of conquering Chile from the viceroy of Perú.

The fleet was in charge of Alonso de Quinteros who sighted land in the bay of Cancanicagua (now Quinteros). The Santiaguillo moved further to the South and was spotted by Juan de Saavedra who came by land. He is recognized as the discoverer of this area.

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Pedro de Valdivia, Spaniard conqueror, founded Santiago de Chile in 1541 and on September 13, 1544 designates Valparaíso as the “natural port of Santiago” and names Juan Bautista Pastene – Genovese sailor – the first lieutenant of the South territory and first public official of the Quintil valley.

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The privileged geographical situation of Valparaíso helps the consolidation of the foundational process of new lands granted to the King of Spain, reason why in November 1552, a port is ordered to be built in the bay. A small village starts to grow but its movement and activity are very poor. This is mainly because Lima and its natural port, El Callao, important enclaves of the vice-kingdom of Perú, exercise a monopoly that influence in a negative way towards the commercial administration of Valparaíso.


A sketch of the city begins to be outlined. A chapel is built in the location where we now find the Matriz Church. In this period, everything was close to the coast and a few warehouses and small houses emerged around it.




The small Spaniard village, with only a few warehouses with salted meat, bacon, flour and other products that were going to be sent to Perú, receives the visit of the first English corsair. Nobody less than the famous and feared Francis Drake, who passes by but is informed by an Indian in Quinteros about the presence of gold in Valparaíso. Drake reaches the port on December 5 finding a businessman's ship that carried 25.000 pesos in powdered gold brought from the city of Valdivia. It was a total surprise and the population ran away, leaving the field open to the English pirates, who stole the supplies that were kept and the sacred calices of the chapel. Francis Drake left the port on December 8 taking the assaulted ship with him as part of the plunder.
The arrival of Drake marks the beginning of the era of pirates and corsairs in Valparaíso, particularly British and Dutch.

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The adventures of Drake encouraged Thomas Cavendish, a British aristocrat who had squandered all his fortune and in an intent of recovering it, bought a ship and organized an expedition with a “corsary” patent which sailed from Plymouth port the year 1586, reaching our coasts one year later. When he passed by Valparaíso, the port was covered by a heavy mist, so he continued until Quinteros, trying to attack this port with no luck and staying there for 10 days. Afterwards he sailed North towards Perú.

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Richard Hawkins was another experimented English pirate and corsair who came to this port. Son of John Hawkins – experimented ex slave trader, pirate and corsair, he practically trained Francis Drake.

Richard Hawkins continued the work of his father, accompanied him in various adventures in which Drake also participated, like an attack by an Invincible Army. In 1593 he sails in a ship baptized the “Dainty” by queen Isabel, in a long pirate expedition to the South American coasts. After crossing the Straight of Magellan, he pillaged Valparaíso. He spent some time arrested in Peru after surrendering to six Spaniard chips. He was set free in 1602 after the payment of a 3000 pound ransom. In 1603 he was named Sir and devoted two years to writing “Observation on His Voyage into the South Seas”


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On September 13 1599 the Dutch corsair Oliver Van Noort set sails from Goerce. He was the first Dutch to go around the world. Van Noort attacked Valparaíso in 1600 burning three ships and capturing three more. He acted cruelly, executing thirty Spaniard sailors he captured, sparing only one navigator to guide him to Peru, who was simply thrown to the sea when he was no longer needed. Previously, near Concepción, Van Noort attacked a ship called “El Buen Jesús” (“The Good Jesus”). Before being captured, the captain threw his treasure to the sea and the Dutch learned about this long after his loss.

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In August 1614, George de Spielberg (also known as Joris Van Spielbergen), the German corsair who served Holland, set sails from the port of Texel with a fleet of six ships, who arrived to the port of Valparaíso in 1615. He had been informed by the captain of one of his ships of the presence of lights and the sound of a horn. Two hundred men set foot attacking the village that only had three miserable buildings. The Spaniards defended themselves firing to the ships hidden behind rocks, and then ran away to the hill ravines. The Dutch embarked and bombed the village, constituting the first bombing suffered by Valparaíso.

An engraving of the bombing appears published in Amsterdam constituting the first view of the bay which was used farther on for the publication of the first map of Valparaíso.







“Histórica Relación del Reyno de Chile” appears published in Rome, work of the Jesuit Alonso de Ovalle, with the first map of Valparaíso that repeats, almost exactly, the outline of the coast depicted in the Dutch engraving, therefore it is considered that it was used as a source for the design. The engraving is practically a battle map and Ovalle's map is more idealized where two churches (Matriz and San Agustín) and a small town appears.

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The construction of the “Concepción” castle begins.

One of the greatest consequences of the corsair visits is the declaration of Valparaíso as a “stronghold”, which marks the beginning of the construction of various castles and forts. These fortifications never shot a single cannonball.

The construction of the San José castle begins, in front of the bay of Valparaíso, contributing greatly to the identity of the area.

San Antonio fort, is constructed in the South of the bay.

Ambrosio O'Higgins, Baron of Vallenary and governor of Chile, establishes in Valparaíso the first town council on April 17 and designates “Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes de Puerto Claro” as the patron Saint of Valparaíso. Additionally, the name of the patron saint is proposed as a name for the city.
The neighbors did not accept and complained to the king of Spain to keep the name Valparaíso, which is ratified by the royal letters patent of 1802, declaring the name official.

Baron stronghold

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The first National Congress is formed and is inaugurated in the atrium of the Matriz Church. This congress ratifies the approbation of the 1802 royal letters patent and approves it by decree of August 9 1811. On November 28 1811, the town council of Valparaíso finds out and demands the application of the orders with the title of “Very Noble and Distinguished City”. The city coat-of-arms is created, which includes the city patron Saint on a castle inserted in an eagle that represents the Saint John eagle, from the shield of the Catholic Kings.


On October 10 the First National Fleet sets sail from Valparaíso, a project created by Bernardo O'Higgins, who believed that a naval force to secure sovereignty from the sea would be fundamental to back up the independence process that was in course. He had acquired this maritime vision in his studies in England where he analyzed the reality of a maritime country like England in the Napoleonic wars.This first National Fleet, with Manuel Blanco Encalada in charge, included the following ships:

San Martín warship – 60 cannons – 492 men
Lautaro frigate – 46 cannons – 353 men
Chacabuco corvette – 20 cannons – 154 men
Araucano brigantine – 16 cannons – 110 men

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On November 28 Lord Thomas Alexander Cochrane arrives in Valparaíso, and is incorporated to the national fleet. Named vice-admiral and commander in chief of the growing naval force, he left his cast in the Chilean marine.

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On September 12 the newspaper El Mercurio is founded by Pedro Félix Vicuña and Thomas Wells.
To the date, the newspaper El Mercurio is the oldest daily in Spanish of uninterrupted printing in the World

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On September 15 the “Perú” and “Chile” steamships arrive in Valparaíso, belonging to the “Pacific Steam Navigation Company”, the first merchant marine enterprise, a step taken by the important North American businessman William Wheelwright.

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On August 19 the discovery of gold in California is known through the arrival of a national brigantine. Chile participates in this fever with the departure of national adventurers who had certain experience in mines and washeries and, for this same reason, unleashed the envy of Americans, who assaulted them constantly. The optimum naval position Chile had gave a great alternative to transport adventurers, especially all the Europeans who arrived in Valparaíso after crossing Cape Horn. Many of these European adventurers did not continue their trip, staying in the city that offered great possibilities of commerce and development.

One of the mythical bandits of that period is Joaquín Murieta. Although the most accepted theory about his origin is that he was Mexican, there is a one that says he was an adventurer from Quillota. Married to a Mexican that was raped, added to the fact that his brother was killed in an assault in California, transforms him into the worst and most wanted bandit in his period.

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While Chile was involved in an armed conflict against Spain, on March 31, a Spanish squadron led by the ship captain Casto Méndez Núñez bombed the port of Valparaíso during three hours, destroying great part of the warehouses and the newly built city buildings. Before the bombardment, the population left the city, but observed the attack from the hills.

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On May 6, the engineer Karl Flach launches a submarine with a cylindrical shape similar to a fish with its tail cut to the sea. At exactly nine o'clock in the morning, Mr. Flach, his son, four Germans, two French and two Chileans went aboard the innovating embarkation and closed the hatchway. The submarine carried out several tricks, first in the surface and then submerging and emerging several times. Sadly, after one of these submersions, the ship did not come back any more, to the consternation and horror of the numerous spectators that had gathered to admire such a spectacular invention”.

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On December 1, was the inauguration of first lift of Valparaíso in Conception Hill. It operated with a water balance system. The inauguration was animated and counted with the presence of the city mayor, the inventor of the lift and several authorities that, fearful, boarded both cabins which stopped when they passed next to each other so the authorities could exchange glasses of champagne through the windows.

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On August 16 a terrible earthquake hit Valparaíso; it is estimated that it reached an intensity of 8,6º in the Richter scale. The earthquake killed approximately 2000 people. The city was almost totally destroyed just as it was rising as an important commercial center in the South Pacific.

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On August 15, a ship, called “Ancón”, crosses the Panama Canal for the first time, inaugurating this great engineering work. The opening of this canal will affect greatly the flow of ships that used to do the route through Cape Horn with Valparaíso as an important port of the South Pacific. Ever since, Valparaíso began sinking into lethargy. The concept of “port of nostalgia”, where people remember the better times, becomes part of the identity of the city. Decadence becomes part of the landscape, the old things, the ruin, the rust, all is detained and sleeping, dreaming about better times.

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On July 2, the executive Committee of the United Nations for Education, Culture and Science, UNESCO, decided to declare an area of Valparaíso World Cultural Heritage. This nomination wakes the city again, which opens to a new activity, tourism. All the European inheritance, the lifts, the corners and the alleys, the endless stairs and the rusted tin become a tourist attraction. This occurs simultaneously with the increase of arrivals of luxury cruisers to the port. The port begins to retake the activity, the houses show colors in their walls again, the patrimonial areas are restored and the lifts are now protagonists of the new activity.

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