The Funiculars of Valparaiso, Chile

funicular /few-nik-yoo-ler/ adj. (of a railway, esp. on a mountainside) operating by cable with ascending and descending cars counterbalanced – Oxford Compact English Dictionary

The Chilean Pacific seaport of Valparaiso, The City of Steps, has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2003. An important part of the heritage district is the collection of funiculars (or ascensors, as the locals call them) that connect the historic Upper and Lower Towns. To this day, this unusual means of transport provides a welcome alternative to those tired of trudging up and down the city’s famous steps all day long!

The funiculars of Valparaiso are very popular, as this line-up at Artillería shows

The funiculars of Valparaiso are very popular, as this line-up at Artillería shows

Between 1883 and 1916, around 30 funiculars (bizarrely, sources seem unsure of the exact number) were constructed to connect the businesses of the Lower Town with the residential districts on the hills above. Many of these still survive and are officially listed as National Monuments, although not all of them are currently in service.

Concepción (The Conception)

Constructed in 1883, Concepción is the oldest funicular in Valparaiso. It was built to connect the Lower Town with the British and German communities living on Cerro Concepción (Hill of the Conception). Climbing over 225 feet at an angle of 45º, Concepción remains one of the city’s most popular ascensors.

Concepción funicular can be seen in the middle of this shot

Concepción funicular can be seen in the middle of this shot

Ascensor Concepción from the Lower Town

Ascensor Concepción from the Lower Town

Inside Concepción's lower station

Inside Concepción’s lower station

It's alright, Sue, Concepción has been running safely for over 130 years!

It’s alright, Sue, Concepción has been running safely for over 130 years!

Concepción's upper station on Cerro Concepción

Concepción’s upper station on Cerro Concepción

Reina Victoria (Queen Victoria)

The Reina Victoria funicular also climbs Cerro Concepción, at a slightly alarming gradient of 57º!

Looking up at Reina Victoria

Looking up at Reina Victoria

The Reina Victoria carriages passing each other

The Reina Victoria carriages passing each other

Reina Victoria's steep tracks

Reina Victoria’s steep tracks

Reina Victoria's winding wheel and controls in the upper station

Reina Victoria’s winding wheel and controls in the upper station

On Cerro Concepción above Ascensor Reina Victoria

On Cerro Concepción above Ascensor Reina Victoria

El Peral (Pear Tree)

Walking visits of Cerro Concepción often take in the neighbouring Cerro Alegre (Happy Hill). This hill is linked directly to the Lower Town via just one funicular, El Peral.

El Peral's recently-renovated upper station

El Peral’s recently-renovated upper station

Looking down on one of El Peral's tiny carriages

Looking down on one of El Peral’s tiny carriages

The El Peral funicular can be seen just to the right of Palacio Baburizza on Cerro Alegre

The El Peral funicular can be seen just to the right of Palacio Baburizza on Cerro Alegre

Artillería (Artillery)

The Artillería funicular is one of the most photographed in the city. At the northern end of the UNESCO district, it was built to connect the Lower Town with the old Naval College (now the Naval and Maritime Museum) on Cerro Artillería. Today its carriages continue to transport more than 30 passengers at a time to the top of Artillería, from where they are rewarded with fantastic views of the city and the bay.

The cable-linked cars of the Artillería funicular climb/descend Cerro Artillería

The cable-linked cars of the Artillería funicular climb/descend Cerro Artillería

The upper Artillería station

The upper Artillería station

View between the Artillería tracks

View between the Artillería tracks

Artilleria 05

Classic view of the Ascensor Artillería

Classic view of the Ascensor Artillería

Inside the upper Artillería station

Inside the upper Artillería station

The winding gear at the top of Artillería

The winding gear at the top of Artillería

Inside one of Artillería 's two large carriages

Inside one of Artillería ‘s two large carriages

Looking up Artillería 's tracks

Looking up Artillería ‘s tracks

Cordillera (Mountain Range)

Ascensor Cordillera climbs Cerro Cordillera between El Peral and Artillería. Those feeling energetic can match its climb of 200 feet at a gradient of 70º by using the flight of steps that runs beside the tracks.

Can you spot Cordillera funicular?

Can you spot Cordillera funicular?

The steps heading up Cerro Cordillera are between the carriages and the grey, graffiti-covered wall behind

The steps heading up Cerro Cordillera are between the carriages and the grey, graffiti-covered wall behind

Villaseca (Dry Town)

Sadly, not all of Valparaiso’s funiculars are still working (and some have disappeared entirely). From the back of Cerro Artillería you get a great view of the Villaseca funicular, which climbs the adjacent Cerro Playa Ancha (Wide Beach Hill). Ascensor Villaseca is currently closed due to landslides making the track unsafe. Responsibility for the funicular was transferred to the Chilean government in 2012, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it is running again.

Ascensor Villaseca from Cerro Artillería

Ascensor Villaseca from Cerro Artillería

The currently abandoned Villaseca funicular

The currently abandoned Villaseca funicular

Villaseca's upper station is in desperate need of renovation...

Villaseca’s upper station is in desperate need of renovation…

... As are its carriages

… As are its carriages

The Villaseca tracks crossing a road on Cerro Playa Ancha

The Villaseca tracks crossing a road on Cerro Playa Ancha

Monjas (Nuns)

At 580 feet, the Monjas funicular is the longest in Valparaiso, climbing the hill of the same name, Cerro Monjas. Like Villaseca, it’s closed at the moment, but has been transferred to government control in a bid to get it operating once more.

The large, white temporary (hopefully) sculpture on its tracks makes the Monjas funicular easier to spot among the chaos of Cerro Monjas

The large, white temporary (hopefully) sculpture on its tracks makes the Monjas funicular easier to spot among the chaos of Cerro Monjas

Espiritu Santo (Holy Spirit)

Despite protests from locals, the Espiritu Santo stood closed for several years. Thankfully, it’s been restored and recently reopened, and today again carries passengers between the Lower Town and Cerro Bellavista (Hill of the Beautiful View).

Espiritu Santo from the sea

Espiritu Santo from the sea

Espiritu Santo 02

Larraín (named after Juan Larraín)

Along the hills that flank the eastern end of Valparaiso’s Lower Town is a row of four ascensors. Two are visible in the photo below.

Mid-way up this photo on the left you can make out the Larraín funicular, while on the right is the yellow tower of Ascensor Polanco

Mid-way up this photo on the left you can make out the Larraín funicular, while on the right is the yellow tower of Ascensor Polanco

The Larraín funicular is another that is currently closed (this time for economic reasons), awaiting renovation.

A closer view of Larraín funicular, taken from the water

A closer view of Larraín funicular, taken from the water

Polanco

The direct translation of ‘ascensor’ is ‘elevator’, even though most of the ‘ascensors’ in Valparaiso are actually inclined funiculars. The Ascensor Polanco is the exception, since it is an elevator in the true sense of the word. In fact,  according to what I’ve read, it’s one of only three totally vertical urban elevators in the entire World.

The lower entrance of Ascensor Polanco leads to...

The lower entrance of Ascensor Polanco leads to…

... a tunnel that burrows 500 feet into the hillside to the bottom of the elevator shaft

… a tunnel that burrows 500 feet into the hillside to the bottom of the elevator shaft

The Polanco tower from outside the middle 'station'

The Polanco tower from outside the middle ‘station’

The bridge leading to the top Polanco entrance

The bridge leading to the top Polanco entrance

The guard at the top of the Polanco tower caught napping! (See my Chile Dogs post for lots more photos of Chile's countless strays)

The guard at the top of the Polanco tower caught napping!
(See my Chile Dogs post for lots more photos of Chile’s countless strays)

View across Valparaiso from the top of the Polanco tower

View across Valparaiso from the top of the Polanco tower

Barón (Baron)

The Barón funicular is the northernmost of the four ascensors at the east side of Valparaiso old town, and was the first in the city to be powered by electricity. As with Artillería on the far side of the UNESCO section of Valparaiso, the promenade beside the upper station provides stunning views across the bay and city.

The Barón funicular seen from the bay

The Barón funicular seen from the bay

One of Barón's carriages on its way down the hill

One of Barón’s carriages on its way down the hill

Barón's upper station

Barón’s upper station

The view of Valparaiso from beside Barón's upper station

The view of Valparaiso from beside Barón’s upper station

This post was inspired by the photo theme of  Tracks from Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge. Despite the fact that on the surface this post is all about a means of transport that saves your legs, with all the walking we did between the funiculars, I also feel comfortable submitting it to Jo’s Monday Walk!

Me at Ascensor Espiritu Santo

Me at Ascensor Espiritu Santo

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About Jaspa

Star of my own award-winning adventure novels, Jaspa's Journey. Geocaching addict & F1 fan. Adventure Journeyer & blogger extraordinaire. Check out my website: www.jaspasjourney.com And don’t forget to download the books and see what the buzz is all about!
This entry was posted in History, Jaspa's Journey, Photography, South America, Travel, UNESCO World Heritage Site and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to The Funiculars of Valparaiso, Chile

  1. Great shots! And even though I always wonder how long those cables might last when I’m in a funicular, I ride them anyway! Just got back from Prague where we rode to the castle in one.

  2. Cee Neuner says:

    Oh do you have some wonderful photos for this week’s challenge. I really like you Looking up Artillería ‘s tracks photo.

    • Jaspa says:

      Thanks, Cee! Poking the camera through Artillería’s tracks to get the downward-looking photos and video probably wasn’t the safest thing to do!

  3. restlessjo says:

    Wheeee! What fun! I need never walk again- just go whizzing up and down, Jaspa 🙂 🙂 Super post! Thanks so much for joining me again.

  4. Pingback: Jo’s Monday walk : Spanish City | restlessjo

  5. Pingback: Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Stairs, Steps, Ladders – Cee's Photography

  6. Cee Neuner says:

    Congratulations! I have selected your post to be featured Cee’ Fun Foto Challenge.
    https://ceenphotography.com/2016/07/26/cees-fun-foto-challenge-stairs-steps-ladders/
    I sure hope your week is off to a terrific start!

  7. So steep. Excellent collection of photos.

  8. Pingback: Cee’s Weekly Wrap July 30, 2016 and WPC-Narrow – Cee's Photography

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