Arica, Chile as seen from El Morro de Arica
After the hectic days of travel leaving Peru, arriving to Chile, and visiting Parque Nacional Lauca, I needed to take things a little more slowly on my third day. I woke up early and practiced yoga, and then headed into town for lunch at Govinda’s, which serves a daily vegetarian menú, prepared by the Hare Krishnas.
Afterwards, I climbed up to the top of El Morro de Arica, the iconic natural cliff overlooking the coast. The pathway is easily accessible from downtown Arica and is actually much easier to climb than it looks from below. You can also drive or take a taxi to the top.
As I climbed El Morro, I got a clear view inland towards the region surrounding Arica. The dusty hills reminded me of the foothills of Huaycán and I felt quite at home! Although Arica seemed like a small city when I wandered around the downtown area, this view showed me that the city continues for quite a while!
Appreciating the Views from El Morro, Arica, Chile
From this viewpoint, I saw the busy port of Arica and was joined by many businesspeople on what seemed to be their lunch break. I also chatted with a friendly ice-cream vendor who, upon learning I was American, wished me a happy Independence Day, reminding me that it was July 4th back home!
Military Nationalism on El Morro, Arica, Chile
El Morro is also home to a military museum and many, many monuments celebrating Chile’s military prowess and defeat of the Peruvian army in 1880, which removed Arica’s port from Peruvian possession. In fact, this blatant celebration of Chile’s victory is a little uncomfortable if you know anything about the brutal treatment of Peruvians living in the city after their defeat.
Of course, no monument in South America would be complete without a sculpture of Cristo Redentor visible from all points in the surrounding city. You can also look out towards the ocean and appreciate the 360 degree view from this vantage point. It reminded me a lot of the Southern California coastline.
Viewing the Coast from El Morro, Arica, Chile
After enjoying the sun on top of El Morro, I headed back downtown to wander around and explore some of the notable buildings around Arica, such as the Catedral de San Marcos, which was build in Eiffel’s workshop, who is better known for the Eiffel Tower in Paris. 🙂 This structure was transported to Chile and then assembled in Arica!
On my way back to the hostel, I noticed that the clouds were becoming beautiful yet again and snapped pictures while walking through the park and passing some of the interesting sculptures around the city. I hurried back to the coast so that I could watch the sun set yet again over the water. No matter how many sunsets I watch over the west coast, it never gets old!
Sunset over Arica, Chile
The next morning, I woke up super early and through the window in my room I saw this gorgeous sky, and stepped outside with my camera to capture the interesting cloud formations. A few years ago, I read The Cloudspotter’s Guide, which only increased my love of clouds and blue skies.
Gorgeous Clouds Over Arica, Chile
I decided to leave Arica the next day and head directly to San Pedro de Atacama, one of the places I was most excited to visit on my trip. After buying my bus ticket, I located the place where the taxi colectivo (shared taxi) would take me to the Valle de Azapa (Azapa Valley) about 12 kilometers outside of Arica. The Valle de Azapa is known for growing olives and producing olive oil, as well as the region’s archeological museum, El Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa.
Inside, you find the typical collection of artifacts from the pre-Incan and Incan cultures that passed through the region, as well as information about the olive growing industry, but the museum is best known for its impressive collection of Chinchorro mummies. What I appreciated about this museum is that they displayed the mummies with respect and care and provided interesting details about the burial culture. I was particularly touched by how the Chinchorro people mummified and buried miscarriages as if they were already full members of the family.
After leaving the museum, I sat outside to plan my trip back and was befriended by this adorable guy!
I walked back to the main road to flag down a colectivo back to Arica and headed downtown to check out that night’s music festival and try some regional foods. A representative from the Arica tourist board spotted the only foreigner in their midst and gave me a number of souvenirs, probably to encourage more of us to visit!
All in all, I enjoyed Arica’s laid back atmosphere and excellent climate, and would stop there for a night in August when I was on my way back to Peru. Arica showed me that Chile’s coast is just as gorgeous as that of its neighbor to the north.
Recommendations for Arica, Chile:
- stay at Hostal Sunny Days and ask them for their map of things to do in Arica
- climb El Morro on foot
- visit Parque Nacional Lauca for at least one day
- head to the Museo Arquelógico de San Miguel de Azapa
- It’s easy to get around Arica on foot or by taking inexpensive colectivos, and there are also local buses which seemed pretty easy to figure out.
- To get to San Miguel de Azapa, you need to take a taxi colectivo, a shared taxi which follows a fixed route. You can find the one to Azapa outside of the local bus terminal (next door to the international bus terminal). The colectivo will drop you off on the road where the museum is located or even outside the gates. To taxi the colectivo back to Arica, you need to walk the short distance back to the main road and flag down another colectivo on its way back.
- You can get direct long-distance buses to San Pedro de Atacama from Arica, or you can take a bus to Calama and transfer to another bus to San Pedro, which is cheaper. All buses to San Pedro stop in Calama. It takes about eleven hours to get to San Pedro from Arica. I recommend Tur-Bus because they give you a decent breakfast. It should cost $35-40 depending on the level of service you choose, the day of the week you travel, and how far in advance you purchase your seat.
[July 4-5, 2013: Arica, Chile and Valle de Azapa, Chile]