Iquique – Northbound to PERU

Posted: August 8, 2011 in Chile

So onto two seaside resorts fellow travellers have advised I stop at for a night of two…

The bus left San Pedro Atacama at 13:00 and for 4 hours I just crossed desert. It really is an arid lifeless place;  mountains, rocks, dust and miles of road… nothing more! The National Geographic and NASA is it the driest place on earth.

The desert comes to an abrupt end in the west, as it approaches the  Cordillera de la Costa (Chilean coast mountain range) which runs north to south along the Pacific coast of South America  parallel to the Andean Mountains in the east. San Pedro in fact is completely enclosed by these two mountain ranges.

Not disappointed with Iquique at all, my first impressions are all good, reminds me of a town that time forgot. Yes there are a couple of new resort developments and the ubiqutos glass tower blocks with arces of balconies and polished steel, but the area of my interest if the town centre, my guide summarised it well!

..refurbished Georgian-style architecture from the 19th-century mining boom is well preserved, and a pedestrianized street, Baquedano, sports charming wooden sidewalks.

Iquique is Chile´s top beach resort and a real mix of surfers, hippies and stoners, back packers, shoppers (did I mention is was a zona franca – duty free zone?) and business/property snobs!

The one thing I am not enjoying after weeks of baking hot sun and blue skies, is a rather pesky heavy mist that comes in off the sea and hovers over the town. It is blown in by on shore winds but is unable to go anyway as the entire coastal region is hemmed in by a towering Cordillera de la Costa a few hundred metres beyond the town, so it remains hazy (but warm) most the day, thank goodness the humidity here is very low.

Sight seeing on Wednesday, hmmm let me think:

Edificio de la Aduana & Museo Naval

…colonial-style customshouse, built in 1871 when Iquique was still Peruvian territory. Peru incarcerated prisoners here during the War of the Pacific, and the building would later see battle in the Chilean civil war of 1891. The Aduana houses a small naval museum with artifacts salvaged from the sunken Esmeralda, a plucky little Chilean corvette that challenged ironclad Peruvian warships in the War of the Pacific.

Regional Museum

Iquique’s former courthouse now hosts the catch-all regional museum, which earnestly recreates a traditional adobe altiplano village (complete with mannequins in Aymara dress). The surrounding chambers also have some attention-grabbing exhibits, from animal fetuses floating in formaldehyde to masked Chinchorro mummies and elongated Tiwanaku skulls.

Teatro Municipal

Jumping fountains line the short walkway south to the marble-stepped Teatro Municipal, an ostentatious neoclassical building that has been hosting opera, theater and more since 1890; take a quick peek at the painted ceilings inside

Avenue Baquedano

Avenue Baquedano is the main thoroughfare, and its northern section is an attractive pedestrian mall. A handsomely restored tram (which normally sits outside the theater) occasionally jerks its way down the avenue in the tourist high-season. South of the plaza, Av Baquedano is lined with Georgian-style balustraded buildings dating from 1880 to 1930. Among them is the Iquique English College.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s