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Overview

High-rise hotels and apartment buildings give Iquique's shoreline a contemporary sheen, but it's the rejuvenated historic district along Paseo Baquedano, its Georgian houses built of Douglas fir imported from California and the Pacific Northwest, that gives this one-time nitrate port its personality. For Chilean visitors, it's sunbathing on the sandy beaches and shopping at the duty-free Zona Franca that have put this coastal desert city on the travel map, but excursions into its desert outback really inspire the imagination. Within the historic district, restored and stocked with period furniture, the Palacio provides an idea of the ...

High-rise hotels and apartment buildings give Iquique's shoreline a contemporary sheen, but it's the rejuvenated historic district along Paseo Baquedano, its Georgian houses built of Douglas fir imported from California and the Pacific Northwest, that gives this one-time nitrate port its personality. For Chilean visitors, it's sunbathing on the sandy beaches and shopping at the duty-free Zona Franca that have put this coastal desert city on the travel map, but excursions into its desert outback really inspire the imagination. Within the historic district, restored and stocked with period furniture, the Palacio provides an idea of the nitrate barons' splendor during Iquique's early 20th-century heyday; a reconstruction of the Corbeta Esmeralda, sunk in the War of the Pacific with Peru, is a second-tier attraction. Active visitors, though, will find more to see and do on the city's outskirts and beyond — the highway south of town has countless surf spots with little or no competition for waves, and the city has dedicated an area for para-gliders atop the steep escarpment of the coast range. Barely half an hour east, Oficina Humberstone is an atmospheric company town relic of the nitrate era and, not that much farther away, the slopes of the Cerro Pintados feature an extraordinary array of Pre-Columbian hillside geoglyphs. Farther away, the one-time nitrate port of Pisagua has historical architecture, but was also a prison camp under the Pinochet dictatorship.

Wayne Bernhardson
About the Expert

Wayne Bernhardson is the author of Moon Handbooks to Argentina, Buenos Aires (including coastal Uruguay), Chile (including Easter Island), and Patagonia (including the Falkland Islands).

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Wayne Bernhardson for Triporati

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Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Iquique is a port city and commune in northern Chile, capital of both the Iquique Province and Tarapacá Region. It lies on the Pacific coast, west of the Atacama Desert and the Pampa del Tamarugal.
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Chilean Peso
  • Research: Wikitravel | Wikipedia
  • Weather: Daylight | Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    All year, but January and February can get crowded.