Road Trip/Lit Tour combo: Pablo Neruda’s 3 Homes

How cool is a Chilean road trip/literary tour combo! With three easy drives, you can explore different regions of Chile, visit Nobel poet Pablo Neruda’s three homes and taste some local flavors.

Swipe through the three maps below to see just how easy the route is.

You can repeat every stop on this route without speakIng any Spanish.

Poet Pablo Neruda was a celebrity in his time, known for his poetry, his time as a Chilean diplomat, his communist beliefs and his lavish eccentricities, but his communist party affiliation forced him to cross the Andes mountains into Argentina on horseback to escape arrest in March 1949.

Neruda’s eccentricities are on full display in his three beautiful homes in Chile. He decorated his homes souvenirs he collected from around the world.

With the price of admission to each house, you get an audio headset to guide you through. Actors play the parts of different characters, giving the tour a theatrical flair.

Road Trip/Lit Combo, part 1: Santiago to Valparaíso

Valparaíso is a 90-minute drive if you don’t stop along the way, but part of the fun of a road trip are the spontaneous detours you make when something catches your eye.

Huge onions we found at a roadside stand about 45 minutes into our road trip combo tour
Artisan nuts and oils
It’s fun to remember the flavors and aromas of your trip when you arrive back home.

La Sebastiana, Neruda’s Valparaíso Home

Valparaíso is a UNESCO World Heritage site, built on the slope of a steep mountain. This is a bohemian town with graffiti-art decorating the houses. Unesco cleverly describes the town around it as an amphitheatre-like setting, since it rises from the seaport on all sides.

Dramatic view of Valparaiso and the sea

The views of the colorful houses and the ocean are breathtaking from the top. Neruda loved the sea and he wanted a home with this view so, naturally, he fell in love with this house (below) by the architect Sebastian Collao.

Pablo Neruda’s home in Valparaiso

La Sebastiana is actually a small, tall house with narrow stairways. The curved wall on the fourth floor full of large windows makes the house resemble a ship. All three homes are full of souvenirs from Neruda’s travels when he served as an ambassador. These include old maps and portraits, a carousel house, and food and liquor from around the world.

You can see Neruda’s love of the sea in the way he decorated each of his homes.

Neruda designated each space of the house with a purpose: there was his writing area, his bar, a living room, etc., and you entered a space for a specific purpose.

When Neruda invited guests for dinner, they gathered in the dining room, waiting for Neruda to make his appearance. He enjoyed making a grand entrance to greet his guests.

View of the sea from Neruda’s Valparaiso home
Guards on each floor are posted. You are not allowed to take photos in the house. When he realized we weren’t going to sneak one past him, he offered to take one for us.

Neruda told his friends about a particular house below where he claimed always watched a woman sunbathe naked. His friends spent hours looking out his window but they never saw her.

Road Trip/Lit Combo, part 2: Valparaíso to Isla Negra

Valparaíso is just a 70-minute drive to Isla Negra if you drive without stopping, but who wants to do that.

The road trip/lit combo takes you through a highway lined with eucalyptus trees
Surrounded by eucalyptus trees, we grabbed a few branches for a natural fragrance for the car!

El Totoral is a tiny town with a church, a farm store, even a museum and a few scattered houses.

This road trip combo means you get to stop at places like this,for fresh bread, eggs, homemade jellies and craft beer

Wherever you look, you find eggs that the hens laid, including in some of the flower pots, so the caretakers have to hunt for eggs everywhere.

Fresh-baked bread, hot from the oven
Bread straight out of the oven and into our mouths 😋

We bought fresh bread, jelly, eggs from the hens on the farm and craft beer in the tiny town of El Totoral. This is a great shopping experience if you’re staying in an AirBnB.

Neruda’s Isla Negra Home

Stop 2 on our road trip/lit combo isNeruda’s beautiful seaside home

Isla means island in Spanish but this property is just a strip of land along the coast. The home at Isla Negra is just one floor with the rooms connecting one through the other. The narrow house stretches from north to south, just like long, narrow Chile.

Throughout the house, the windows look out over the Pacific Ocean. Neruda loved the sea, but this was the house that most inspired him to write.

Neruda and his wife, Matilde, were buried here at Isla Negra, but their remains were moved to Spain in 1992 for lab tests to determine if the famous poet had been poisoned to death by the dictatorial government of Pinochet.

Road Trip/Lit Combo, part 3: Isla Negra to Santiago

We returned to Santiago in time for my cousin Saverio’s birthday. Saverio is a geologist working in Chile and his apartment was close to our hotel.

Before visiting the final home of Pablo Neruda, we went to Saverio’s apartment where I prepared a delicious breakfast for his friends who helped show us around Santiago.

Our road road trip/lit combo ends in Santiago with fresh, local ingredients from the trip
For breakfast, I had the fresh ingredients we bought in El Totoral.

La Chascona, Neruda’s Santiago Home

Neruda’s Santiago home was our least favorite, with no view of the sea

La Chascona is a Chilean word (from the indigenous Quechua language) which means a wild mane of hair. La Chascona was his nickname for his wife Matilde.

La Chascona is like the other houses in its dedicated spaces, its worldly souvenirs and its naval touches. The audio tour was just as wonderful as those of the other homes.

But La Chascona was our least favorite of the three, without the beautiful sea in front and, perhaps being #3 of our visits, we were fatigued from so many excesses and eccentricities of this poet.

Effortlessly see the country’s coast, to enjoy the local flavors and know Chile’s most famous personality

This easy road trip will give you a taste of Chile, beyond Santiago. It’s a fun route, no tour operators required and low cost. I recommend a night in Valparaiso because it’s a fun town to explore.

Author: Aixa

I was born and raised in Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela. I traveled extensively throughout Venezuela before ever thinking of leaving my country. Visit me on Instagram!

20 thoughts

  1. This was such a beautiful text; I really really enjoyed reading it.

    Neruda definitely knew how to live his life.

    I found these very interesting:

    Loved the sea and wanted a home with a view to it. Who can blame him?

    Enjoyed making a grand entrance to greet his guests – just like Dali. Many great artists definitely have a big ego.

    Eucalyptus trees ( I love the fragrance, but I don’t think I have ever seen the trees. They look amazing!)

    His remains were moved to Spain lab tests to determine if he had been poisoned to death by Pinochet’s government – I know about it but don’t know the outcome. Do you have some inside information. It has taken them very long.

    Last but not least, lots of my friends from South America have sth in common – everybody, regardless of where they come from, would like to live in Chile one day, saying it’s a very nice and safe place. Is that true?

    1. Thank you so much, Bojana, for liking my post. You just put a big smile on my face.

      As for the findings of Neruda’s cause of death, the labs in Canada and Denmark (not Spain 🤦🏽‍♀️) say he didn’t die of cancer, as the death certificate says, but of a bacteria. They say they can’t pinpoint where the bacteria came from, though (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/21/world/americas/pablo-neruda-death-forensic.html)

      As for living in Chile, that is definitely one of the countries we’re considering, but we still want to visit Uruguay and see more of Argentina. These countries are much safer than many other parts of Latin America, even though we’ve considered Mexico, Guatemala and Costa Rica, too.

  2. My husband lived in Chile for a few years after being born in Colombia. He has been back a few times, lots of family in Santiago and surrounding areas. We hope to visit in a couple of years. Beautiful and interesting narrative!

    1. Thank you so much for reading, Terri.

      As your husband can tell you, Chile is a beautiful country with a lot to see. Since your husband has family in Santiago, I’m sure you’ll love it!

    1. Thank you, Julie. Yes, the bread was delicious, especially because we were both hungry. We also had that warm bread smell in the car all the way to Isla Negra.

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