Valdivia is, at first view, a beautiful city with a breezy riverfront, multiple universities, old architecture and good restaurant. However, a walk down the riverfront changes your opinion a bit. You notice the extremely smoky Celco-Arauco paper mill that sends up constant masses of smoke into the sky. In 2005 some 5000 black-necked swans died from contamination from this factory. This environmental catastrophe drew local and worldwide outrage, but the plant continues to operate unfortunately.
The city is still well-worth a visit though – even if only for a day. Head to the colourful Ferie Fluvial, the riverside fish and vegetable market, where sea lions paddle up for handouts. In this video you will see some of the huge, gorgeous sea lions that were literally 1 meter away from me. They are not in cages. They are swimming freely in the river…bless them and let’s pray that the river is not as polluted as it looked.