Things to do in Chile
A beautiful waterfront walk, La Costanera, borders the local beaches of Playa Brava and Cavancha
A paradise between beaches and deserts ... which you can visit all year round due to its pleasant climate. In 2001 Iquique was named Culture Capital of Amercia, the first city in Chile to achieve the distinction. Iquique is also known as the ‘New Orleans of South America’, with its mix of cultures and constant activity.
Iquique is a city where you can visit museums, like the new life-size tall ship Esmeralda. Take a stroll down Baquedano Street to relive the wealth and refinement of nineteenth century Iquique, whose beautiful architecture now houses restaurants, shops and offices. The city has several national monuments worth visiting such as the Cathedral, Clock Tower, Municipal Theatre (currently under renovation), Mansions, Pier and more.
Historical Center of Iquique
In the historical center of the city there are several places that date back to the time of the colony, which are a must stop. The Astoreca Palace, is one of the invaluable attractions in this sector of the city. So is the classic Baquedano promenade where you can witness houses built in the late 1880s and early 1900s.
A beautiful waterfront walk, La Costanera, borders the local beaches of Playa Brava and Cavancha, where you can just relax and get a tan or do something more vigorous like jogging, exercising in the outdoor gym or surfing (the waves are great for bodyboarding). There is also a small reptile zoo, a community of pelicans and you can buy some delicious local seafood.
The beach is also the landing zone for paragliders, available to anyone who is looking for an exciting adventure. The experience starts in the nearby desert town of Alto Hospicio, and accompanied by a professional instructor you can see and film the city like an eagle as you descend from the mountainous dunes to the Pacific Ocean.
Outside the city and immerse in the pampas, the abandoned nitrate mines of Humberstone and Santa Laura are a testimony to the golden era of this industry in Chilean history. The remains of the two offices have been named World Heritage sites, and have been converted into museums that show how life was in the harsh desert conditions. Pozo Almonte is the nearest town, and also has a number of important historical remains of the nitrate industry. In this area you can also see the Pintado Geoglyphs, over 400 figures traced on the hillsides.
A good day-trip includes the towns of Pica and Mamina, 114km and 125km from Iquique respectively, which trace their history to pre-colonial days of the Aymara and Quechua people. Pica is a desert oasis famous for its fruit including mangoes and guayabas, and of course Limon de Pica, essential ingredient in Pisco Sour! You can relax in hot springs as well as buy arts and crafts.
The town of La Tirana holds one of Chile’s most important religious celebrations between July 12 and 17 each year. The shrine of La Tirana is the home of Chile’s patron saint, the Virgen del Carmen, known as 'The Queen of Tamarugal', and colourfully-dressed participants dance their way around it the whole week long.
Iquique is a Tax Free Zone, and at the famous 'Zofri' mall you can buy clothing, electronics, perfumes and much more tax-free. Most of the prices are quite normal by Chilean standards, but good deals do exist for bargain hunters, and keep in mind that the tax-free limit for purchases is USD $1,200.
Iquique has excellent and varied dining options including seafood, international, Asian, Aymara, among others. Most restaurants open at 8pm at night for dinner.
The majority of the large hotels are located on the esplanade, and you can find a range of qualtiy and prices, together with a great view of the Pacific Ocean. If you arrive a little unprepared, ask the helpful taxi/transfer drivers at the airport for help finding something.
Iquique enjoys the typical climate of Northern Chile - the average number of rainy days per year is less than 0! The day-time temperature year-round in Iquique is a comfortable 24°C, although it is often cloudy on the coast. The interior, in the Atacama Desert and near the Andes can be very cold, so be prepared. Even if the day is not sunny it is advisable to use sunscreen.
The city, located just over 1,800 kilometres from the capital Santiago, has excellent transport by land and air. Diego Aracena International Airport is 45km (35 minutes) from the city, and receives flights from around the country and as well as Bolivia, Paraguay and Argentina (check schedules depending on the season).
By car it is 316km north to Arica and 410km south to Calama, both using the Panamerican Highway (Ruta 5). There is also a coastal road to the south, the A-1, and the nearest city is Tocopilla (244km).
- Several bus lines connect Iquique with Santiago and other Chilean cities.
- Iquique has also become a major destination for cruise ships.
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