Iquique has reinvented itself from a sleepy little fishing village to a nitrate power house and, now, a tourist destination. Located on Chile’s northern west coast, Iquique has something for everyone – beaches to gambling.
LANTAM flies into Iquique at a reasonable cost. The airport is located about 30 minute drive from the center of Iquique. A taxi costs $17,000 CLP (approx. $25.00) one way. Buses , such as Turbus, offer a more moderate travel cost into Iquique.
What to See:
Baquedano Blvd. (Pedestrian Street):
Pedestrian street, Baquedano, is a great place to begin exploring Iquique. Architectural examples of the
nitrate era fill the street. Two trolleys rattle up and down Baquedano Blvd. carrying passengers to Prat
Plaza and the malecon, walkway by the beach.
In 1903, nitrate baron, Juan Higinio Astoreca built Palacio Astoreca, but he died before it was completed. His family (5 children) relocated to Valparaiso. For many years, the mayor used the quarters as the headquarters for the town and region. Currently, the house is a museum and an extension of Arturo Prat University.
Clock Tower at Plaza Arturo Plat:
The Clock Tower at Plaza Arturo Plat is the symbol of Iquique. Completed in 1879. The clock itself was made in England and shipped to Iquique. The clock structure was made of Oregon pine.
This area is the center of activity. People come to sit under beautiful trellis or listen to the music of
entertainers. Young people play in and out of the clock’s paths. See the One-Man-Band that was entertaining the crowds at Plaza Arturo Prat. I was walking down Baquedano Blvd. when I heard this sound coming from the plaza. When I arrived at the Clock Tower, these two young musicians were performing. One thing I’ve noticed about Chile, young people are eager to demonstrate their abilities, whether it is juggling, singing, playing instruments, they are out there, unafraid and enjoying the experience.
Teatro Municipal de Iquique:
In 1890, Teatro Municipal de Iquique was built at the height of the nitrate boom as an opera house.
The structure was built from Oregon pine. Such greats as Sarah Bernhardt have performed on this stage.
The theater has gone through some rough times, but the Chilean government saw the value in persevering this jewel and spent millions of dollars to restore it to its greatness. John and I wanted to see inside which was not a problem. We were allowed to freely walk about. Inside, the opulence of the ceiling and decorative woodwork whisks you back in time. The most wonderful part of our visit was watching a class performing a school project. These young people had the privilege of experiencing the excitement of the stage.
The Esmeralda was sunk at the Battle of Iquique during the War of the Pacific (between Peru, Bolivia and Chile-not connected with WWII) by the Peruvian ship, Huascar. Chile acquired her as payment of Spanish debt and used her as a training vessel. She had a coppered wood hull and was no match for the ironclad Huascar. Esmeralda’s captain, Arturo Prat, was killed during the battle. The ship on display is a 1::1 replica of the Esmeralda. A museum and gift shop are next to the ship. Entrance fee is $2,000 CLP ($3.00 USD), easy access for all abilities, tours in Spanish only.
We stumbled upon this mercado on the northern end of the town while we were
doing some random
exploring. The fruits and vegetables were bright and beautiful. A young lady was selling a potato empanada with salsa inside. For $ 500 CLP (Less than 75 cents USD) I gave it a try…delicious!
On an entrepreneurial note, we came across what I call, the Take-Out Pizza Guy. This guy had taken a BBQ pit,
covered it in cement to hold in the heat, painted it with
P-I-Z-Z-A. It had all the necessities: portable, kept the food hot and offered a good pizza slice. After we finished our
pizza and empanada, we were walking back to our hotel (Hotel Esmeralda) when I past a man who had shoes spread-out a sheet. On the sheet, he had several pairs set out. At first, I didn’t pay much attention. Then, I realized what I was seeing. We turned around and went back. I asked him about the shoes. He makes them by hand and sells them for $20,000 CLP ($29.00 USD). There were different colors. The leather was an exact match to the
fabric. I tried on several pair to get the right size and walked off with this beautiful pair of shoes. They are comfortable.
Iquique has several beautiful beaches: Playa Brava and Playa Cavancha (the big beach).
Even though there is an Humboldt undercurrent, surfers do both body and board surfing. Wet suits and boards can be rented in town.
Zona Franca (free trade zone):
Zona Franca (1975) – one of two Chilean free ports. More than just a shopping mall, source of prosperity for the region. The mall specializes in electronics, perfumes and small appliances. The importance of this free zone is not the mall per se, but the imports that come into the free port and fuel the Iquique economy (and Chile’s economy).
Most visitors come to Iquique to enjoy the sun, sand and low key life style. Whatever the reason, Iquique will provide an interesting, relaxing adventure.
About the author:
Annie Coburn currently lives in Santiago, Chile and travels throughout South America. She created Fab Placez in 2010, but the name never really defined her target audience – mature travelers. In 2014, she changed the name to FAB Senior Travel, and with the help of some very talented people, redesigned the website. She publishes travel articles from other writers to provide diversity of locations to match the breadth of our travel interests.