If you are making your way through Chile in either direction then Iquique is a perfect place to stop off for a few days and soak up some sun, as sometimes that is exactly what you need! If you aren’t too tired from your travels do not overlook this bustling city though, as it also offers many activities to keep you entertained for a few days.
In the 19th century there was a mining boom in the Atacama Desert and this lead to the development of Iquique, leading to it now being a trendy city with casinos, gorgeous beaches and an array of bars and restaurants. Originally Iquique was a Peruvian town with a large Chilean population, however it was officially made Chilean after the War of the Pacific. It is one of only two free ports in Chile today. Rainfall is very low yearlong and temperatures rarely drop below twenty during the day. As you stroll along the boardwalk in the evening sun you won’t regret your choice to visit Iquique!
Places to stay in Iquique:
- Backpackers Hostel Iquique: This is a YHA hostel that is a great choice for backpackers travelling to this region. Iquique does not have a particularly large selection of budget accommodation, but there is no need to worry as this hostel has everything you could want. The downstairs has a spacious outside area with plenty of seating (and a very friendly dog who often takes himself for walks to the beach) and indoors a reasonably priced bar, a pool table and a computer free to use. There is also a sizeable kitchen with good facilities. The staff are all very helpful and friendly and will assist you in booking activities such as surfing, as well as recommending restaurants and helping with booking onward travel or calling taxis. Rooms range from £7.89 for a basic dorm to £11.47 for a private twin room. Although more expensive that other South American hostels, this is a reasonable price for budget accommodation in Chile and the hostel is definitely worth it, particularly as it is a two minute walk to the beautiful beach!
- Iquique Beachfront: If you would prefer something a bit more private and quiet, at a slightly higher, cost this Bed and Breakfast offers private rooms from £22 a night with en-suite bathroom facilities and free internet access. The rooms also open out onto a terrace, as well as all having their own televisions. It is just fifty yards to the beach, a ten minute walk to the Dreams Casino and a ten minute drive to the bus station. It also offers free parking at night subject to availability in case you are travelling by car.
Things to do:
- Visit the beach: Iquique’s year round warm and calm climate means that it is an ideal place to relax on the beach for a few days and soak up the sun.
- Try your hand at surfing: If you have never been at surfing then you are in the right place! Iquique’s surfing is said to be among the best in the country and there are many companies that offer lessons and courses for beginners or experienced surfers. If surfing does not appeal to you but the water does then there are many other options such as waterskiing to enjoy for a reasonable price.
- Try your luck at the casino: The city has a reputation for being a place of glamour and many people head to one of Iquique’s three casinos to try and multiply their bank balance. Best to take a certain amount of money though or you might end up going home sooner than you think!
- Go spending: Baquedano street showcases the Georgian-style architecture left from the 19th century mining boom that brought money to the region. This pedestrianised street in the centre of town is charming and has touristy shops selling some unique and original gifts. There are also some quirky bars for a relaxing beer in the sun if you are all out of room for souvenirs in your backpack! There are also numerous shopping malls in Iquiquie, such as Mall Las Americas, which attract many due to the duty-free status that the city has.
- Go sandboarding: If you haven’t had the chance to go sandboarding on your trip to South America (most people do it in the Peruvian Oasis of Huachachina) then Iquique also offers the chance to experience the thrill of flying down a humongous sandune head first at what feels like 100mph! Sandboarding is a truly thrilling experience, where you are driven up the biggest sand dunes you can picture in an open buggy then given a board and taken to the perfect spots to go catapulting down the sand- and probably end up with said sand everywhere you can think of! Although it can seem daunting at first, you will be hooked after one attempt. Tip: make sure you keep your skin off the sand as you fly down or you will end up with some nasty sand burns!
- Try some delicious food: Iquique boasts a range of restaurants that cater to all budgets, and it is the perfect place to try something new. Chileans have a great way of putting their own spin on signature dishes from other parts of the region, and the world, and there are many different kinds of restaurants in this sparkling city. Its heavily Peruvian history means that there are a lot of influences from this part of the continent that lead to exciting culinary experiences.
Where to go next?
- Go North to Peru: Take a bus from Iquique and head to the Peruvian border, where you can either stop off at bordering towns of Arica (Chile) or Tacna (Peru) or you can keep going and head straight for the sprawling capital of Lima. Lima is a huge city which oozes glamour, culture, and everything else you could think of! There is even great surfing on offer if you want to hone those skills you have gained in Iquique.
- Go South to Santiago: Hop on a bus for a measly twenty four hour journey and you will be transported to the beautiful capital Santiago, where you will be spoilt for choice with what to do and see. Santiago has a distinctly European feel, with beautiful architecture from the Spanish colonial times and a very cosmopolitan and sophisticated vibe. Don’t miss out on the chance to take a walking tour and learn all about Chile’s turbulent political history.
About the author:
Abigail is a twenty three year old English Literature graduate who spent the past ten months travelling to Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru and Chile in South America, as well as Australia, New Zealand and Thailand. She is currently home in Newcastle completing a TEFL course ahead of a two month teaching placement in Cambodia starting in January.