La Ciudad De La Eterna Primavera, the City of Eternal Spring, Arica is Chile's northernmost city, just 12 miles from the Peruvian border. Located in the Norte Grande, comprising the two regions of Tarapaca and Antofagasta, Arica has long been an important area.
With its mild climate, water - a rarity in the Atacama desert - from Río Lluta supporting vegetation, Arica was an inhabited area from at least 6000 BC.
The area was inhabited by native tribes, who grew corn, squash, and cotton, made pottery and were later part of the Tihuanaco culture of Bolivia and the Inca Empire which extended as far north as Quito, Ecuador.
Gradually, the native culture rose and developed its own art forms and cultural traditions. In Aymara, the word Arica means new opening, which is significant on various levels. Later on, Don Diego de Almagro's expeditionary force came through on its arduous year-long trek to what is now Santiago, the capital of Chile.
Once part of Bolivia and Bolivia's access to the sea to export silver from the mines in Potosí, Arica became Chilean territory in the War of the Pacific, whose naval victories are celebrated annually at the Glorias Navales. Arica still functions as Bolivia's access to the sea, connected to Bolivia by train.
Now, Arica is a developing seaside resort, with golden sand dunes, miles of seashore, duty-free shopping and lively nightlife.
Arica is also the gateway to inland ruins of ancient cultures, Lauca National Park with its many animal species including vicuña, alpaca, Nandu, and wild chinchilla, volcanos, and the highest mountain lake in the world.
- By air:
- Aeropuerto Chacalluta, north of the city, handles domestic flights from Santiago and other Chilean cities, plus international flights to and from Peru and Bolivia.
- By land:
- The Pan-American Highway connects Arica to Peru and other Chilean cities.
- Bus service, either domestic, or international to and from Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina is available.
- Train service to Peru via Tacna and to La Paz, Bolivia is available. The train to La Paz offers limited seating, and it's best to make reservations the week ahead during the summer months.
- Taxis and car rental.
- By sea:
- In addition to being a commercial port, Arica is also a port-of-call for many cruise ships who offer day-trip excursions inland as well as city tours.
- Private sailboats and yachts berth at the marina.
When to Go
Arica's mild climate, with year-round temperatures of 70-75 degrees, gardens, and parks brimming with luxuriant flora have earned Arica the name City of Eternal Spring.
Any time of year is okay for visiting Arica itself, but bus travel from other countries may be affected by weather over the Andes. The coastal fog, called camanchaca, brings welcome moisture to desert plants and burns off early in the day.
- As a duty-free port, Arica offers shoppers a number of bargains.
- The main shopping street is 21 de Mayo.
- Handicrafts markets at Feria Sangra and the Sunday open-air market on the Costanera also have goods from Peruvian and Bolivian vendors.
- The Pueblo Artesanal of Azapa Valley, offers ceramics, knitted garments, pottery, stone carvings, and other handicrafts in a replica of Paricanota.
Food and Drink
- Chile's long seacoast offers exceptional seafood. Arica is no exception. Try Terminal Pesquero for great fresh seafood, and a view of fishing boats and birds.
- Local fruits and vegetables include olives add freshness to your meal.
- Chilean wine, of course!
Things to Do
- In town, also called La Ciudad De La Eterna Primavera:
- Catedral de San Marcos, designed by Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, on the Plaza Colón. Originally intended for the seaside resort of Ancón, the church was instead used to replace an original cathedral destroyed in the 1888 earthquake.
- The Casa de Cultura, once the Customs House, was prefabricated to an Eiffel design and erected on site prior to the War of the Pacific and is one of the few existing structures from that time.
- El Morro de Arica overlooking the city offers great panoramic views and was the site of a decisive battle in the War of the Pacific. The Museo Histórico y de Armas here devoted mostly to the Chilean army's bayonet charge to dislodge the Peruvian garrison stationed on El Morro.
- The best beaches, warm enough for swimming, are south of the city along Avenida Comandante San Martín. Try Playa El Laucho, Arenillas Negras and Playa La Lisera for both swimming and water sports. Playa Corazones has tall cliffs with a large cave.
- Playa Chinchorro, north of town, has an Olympic sized swimming pool and other recreational facilities.
- The Casino de Arica has games of chance, a ballroom, bar, and shows.
- El Tambo restaurant in Azapa has a live folk music show on Fridays and Saturdays.
- The area around Arica has supported life for thousands of years:
- The geoglyphs at Poconchile in the Lluta valley depict llamas of the pack trains to Tiwanaku, Bolivia. There is more rock art, or pictographs, at Azapa, Camarones, Tiliviche, Tarapacá, Guatacondo and Mani, the latter four in the Pampa del Tamarugal.
- In Poconchile, the Iglesia de San Gerónimo is one of the oldest in Chile.
- The Pukará de Copaquilla is a 12th-century fortress built to protect the agricultural settlement. The size of the abandoned terraces gives us a hint of the size of the population they fed.
- Putre was a 16th-century Spanish settlement, a reduccíon, built to control the native population. The restored adobe church and other colonial buildings remain from that time.
- Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa displays regional cultures from the 7th century to the Spanish invasion. The famed Chinchorro mummies are here.
- Parque Nacíonal Lauca is a 138,000-hectare altiplano biosphere reserve with many species of birds, plus vicuñas, vizcachas, and other animals, plus archaeological and cultural sites of importance:
- Las Cuevas entrance to the park has thermal baths, plus offer views of the protected vicuñas
- Between the villages of Chucuyo and Parinacota, wildlife and archaeological ruins offer photographic opportunities.
- Lake Chungará is the highest lake in the world at 14850 ft (4500 m) and supports varied species of birds, including the Chilean flamingo, giant coots, and Andean gulls.
- The twin volcanos of Payachata overlooking the lake are dormant, but Guallatire is still active.