Few clubs in Chile openly advertise themselves as "gay." Many call themselves alternativa; others simply put up posters featuring Kylie and Madonna and know what crowd they're advertising to. All are 18 and over; if you look like you're over 20, they probably won't card you, but if they do, your U.S. driver's license should be enough. It's best to leave your passport in a safe location.
Pagano (Blanco 236, Valparaiso)
Valparaiso's flagship gay club, open seven days a week, features a different genre of music each day. The crowd is mixed in age; the majority are students and 20-somethings, but older visitors won't feel out of place here. The main floor fills up quickly with people dancing to music videos projected onto a large screen, but the basement and second levels are usually less crowded.
Most nights include a drag show that, if you can keep up with the Chilean slang, can be quite entertaining. One visit also featured a post-op transsexual who bared it all to the cheering crowd.
Entrance is free on less-busy nights like Sunday, or if you go earlier (before midnight) on others. On Fridays the "entrada" is usually 1000 to 2000 pesos and often includes a "cover," or free drink.
Exodo (Blanco 298 Valparaiso)
Pagano's sister bar/restaurant offers high-class, and somewhat more costly, drinks in a well-lit atmosphere with comfortable couches and a full bar. This is the most non-Chilean-looking gay bar out there; while most clubs in Chile -- alternativa or not -- have dingy metal floors and dark walls, Exodo is well-lit and has wide windows that show the patrons inside chatting and sitting around the bar. It's a good escape from the pounding music and jostling boys you'll find at most clubs.
There are also nibbles, although the service is a bit slow compared to restaurants in the area.
One Way (Blanco 504, Valparaiso)
This club, formerly one of the most packed in the city, is only open a few nights a month now. It usually draws a crowd of young visitors looking for Kylie, Britney and Ashley accompanied by the bright, colored spotlights. This isn't the smallest club out there, but it's cozy.
The DJ also, surprisingly, favors some German metal and Swedish groups. It's a good change from the same tracks you might hear elsewhere.
Blondie (Blanco 564, Valparaiso)
Valpo's newest alternativa club draws a mixed crowd of young gay men and lesbians as well as young straights, including so-called Pokemones with spiked and dyed hair. Upstairs, the DJ often plays Britpop and 80's; downstairs features large video screens, bright lights and even a bubble machine, appropriate complements to the steady stream of American club hits and European circuit favorites.
Zeuz's (Arlegui 829, Vina del Mar, to the east of Plaza Vina)
One of the area's only openly "gay" bars draws a somewhat older crowd. It looks like most other clubs on the inside, except for the wide, elevated performance area, where elaborate drag queens and male backup dancers perform most nights. Most young people I talked to had no interest in going, for the circular reason that their friends, all their age, also didn't want to go.
At Zeuz's (pronounced "zay-oose"), most nights have a cover charge. The two bars have more choices than some of Valpo's clubs (which typically have about two kinds of each kind of liquor) and the music is similar to other clubs: usually U.S. Top 40, but the occasional European club mix.
Cherry (Errazuriz 884, Valparaiso. (in front of Estacion Metro Puerto)
This club most openly caters to a younger crowd, and you probably won't find many people over 25 here on most nights. The dance floor is packed on weekends but very manageable on other nights. There's a smaller back room with couches and a DJ that favors European tracks, but like the main dancing floor, it's very dim.
Cherry and Blondie are known for promotions to get people there early; often, when you print off a "web flyer" from their web sites, you can enter free before a certain time, or more cheaply than if you paid the normal entrance fee. Check their web sites for daily promotions.
You can also walk from Cherry to the basement club, La Secta, which caters to the gothic and punk crowd. There usually isn't much mingling between the two clubs.
Factoria (near corner of Blanco and San Martin, close to Pagano)
If you're really in the mood for a cutting-edge experience, try Factoria. It opened in late 2008, and doesn't even have a website yet. Out Traveler wasn't able to go -- it's open infrequently -- but an acquaintance relayed that it plays similar music to Pagano (perhaps because its owners work at Pagano).
The best way to find out when it's open is to visit Pagano and ask patrons there -- or even ask a Pagano employee if he knows.
Part One | Part Two