You don’t go to Valparaíso without taking an ascensor. You just don’t. It’s kind of like going to Italy and not eating gelato, or going to Russia and not drinking vodka. It’s like the arteries of the city. Except not really.
These days the only people that tend to use the ascensors frequently are the tourists, and with good reason. First, they cost between 100 to 300 pesos per ride, which isn’t much… but compared to your free feet, that cost can add up. Second, Valparaisanos ain’t afraid of no hills—most places in the city aren’t accessible by ascensor, and even if you did take one you still have a huge way to climb to get home. Their calves can take it. But, more importantly, they probably take the bus.
Nevertheless, the ascensors are still there, as much a landmark as the multicolored houses and the graffiti art donning every wall. The unfortunate part about them is that out of 16 once-functional ascensors, only 6 or 7 remain active, and many of the others are in such a dilapidated state that there’s quite possibly no recovery. It’s sort of a “limited-time offer” deal, though now that the whole of Valparaíso is a UNESCO world heritage there’s a chance that the ones active will stay that way for some time to come.
We spent the day finding all the ascensors that we hadn’t yet used that were still in operation, and it made for a fun time—you can’t easily do that without going all over the city.
The closest one to our apartment was about a half mile away, and thankfully without much uphill. Ascensor Artilleria had been broken down until about 2 weeks ago, so we were lucky enough to take it down to the bay level.
We followed the road down the street to find Ascensor Peral, which is easy to locate right off one of the city’s most popular squares, Sotomayor. It’s just north of the baby blue building and inside the “plaza de justicia”.
This ascensor took us up to Cerro Concepción, which is easily the most popular place for tourists (and it’s therefore the cleanest and most upscale part of the city). This hill alone claims 3 of the working ascensors and charge accordingly—these are the ones that cost 300 pesos a pop (about $0.50), but the cost is nothing compared to the immense feeling of historical significance one gains by slowly scaling up a hill in an oversized woodshed built 150 years ago… though that might just be the slight tinge of fear that the ancient tracks are going to disassemble right before your eyes.
We took ascensor Reina Victoria back down the hill to the flats again, then scored a bus over to our next target: Ascensor Baron. Only problem was we thought we knew where it was, but was instead bamboozled by one of the nonfunctioning ones close by.
It thankfully didn’t take long to find the right one, though it was a bit of a climb to the top. It came with a nice view, and a cute little message:
Carter decided it was time to leave the viewpoint and scaled back down to the ascensor entrance without us so we followed him in, paid our 100 pesos, and headed down the steep incline in a slightly newer car than all the others we had taken. Nothing too exciting, as the exit was right into the back of a giant supermarket.
Soon after we headed home, tired from all the romping around town and climbing hills.
If you find yourself in Valparaíso and want to locate any working ascensors, I highly recommend using this online map which also has some awesome historical pictures of all the former lifts, half which don’t even exist anymore.