Arica, Iquique, Atacama Desert & San Pedro de Atacama
Arica is Chile’s northernmost town – the Peruvian border is only 18km away. In fact, until 1880, Arica and Iquique belonged to Peru. The battle of the Morro, which signalled the end of the War of the Pacific in this region, ensured that Arica became part of the Chilean republic.
The towering cliffs above the city house several monuments and fortifications, including the History and Arms Museum from which there are fantastic views. Arica is a popular, year-round resort, with beach weather almost every day.
One of Chile’s most accessible parks, Lauca National Park, is renowned largely for its active and dormant volcanoes and clear blue lakes. Among its spectacular features is Lake Chungara, one of the world’s highest lakes located at the foot of the twin peak, Pallachata volcano. Here, you will find a profusion of wildlife, including flamingos, vicunas, vizcachas, foxes, condors, giant coots, and dozens of other bird species.
Iquique, with a population of 140,000, is still one of the North’s largest ports - but fishing has replaced mining as its primary industry. Ramshackle wooden houses, bars and a vibrant street life typify this town. Towards the southern end, the focus is on the beach, with palm-lined boardwalks, surfers hotels, condominiums and discotheques.
The high rise apartment blocks and hotels along the beach are reminiscent of Miami Beach but on a lesser scale. The town is slowly spreading south along the coast, where many houses are built on sand and therefore vunerable to the area’s frequent earthquakes. Inland from Iquique are numerous geoglyphs, including The Giant of Atacama, at 86m high, the largest archaeological representation of a human figure in the world. Also worth seeing are the nitrate ghost towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura.
The Atacama Desert is renowned as being one of the driest places in the world - in certain parts no measurable rainfall has ever been recorded. From the frontier-like town of San Pedro de Atacama, many of the desert’s most dramatic sights are within easy reach.
San Pedro is a charming oasis at the north end of the Salar de Atacama. This hip little adobe town is the number one destination for Chilean and foreign visitors. However, despite the fact that the bars and restaurants are busy at certain times of the year, there always seems to be a relaxed atmosphere around town. A number of the hotels in this area offer full board ‘all inclusive’ packages. However, we have also selected properties which offer more independence and freedom.
Visit the Tatio Geysers at dawn, to see the steam gushing into the air, bathe in the natural hot springs or visit the Valley of the Moon.
Calama is an ugly city and mainly serves as the airport gateway for San Pedro de Atacama. It is an ideal point to drop off your car or an ideal base from which to visit the Chuquicamata copper mine. Located 16km north of Calama is Chuquicamata the world’s largest open-pit copper mine; 4,300 m long, 3,000m wide and 720m deep. Over 500,000 tons of raw material is extracted from the pit every day. Tours are available.