Northern Chile is mainly characterized by its desert – one of the driest in the world, for it's National Parks, white sandy beaches and warm waters of the Pacific Ocean and for many cultural events that combine the influence of indigenous Andean cultures with the Spanish conquerors. Among the main touristic destinations to offer, are: The city of Arica with its highland area that includes the Lauca National Park, Lake Chungará and indigenous cultures. Iquique, with its nitrates such as Humberstone and Santa Laura, as well as its petroglyphs and geoglyphs as the Atacama Giant. San Pedro de Atacama, the most popular town in the Atacama Desert because of its geological formations such as salt flats, geysers and hot spring in addition to its important archaeological sites and native cultures. The Elqui Valley, with its main attraction the clear sky is perfect for stargazing. Near the city of La Serena, Damas Island offers great possibilities to observe penguins, dolphins and sea lions in their natural environment.
Arica is Chile’s most northern city and it’s just 20 km from the Peruvian border the gateway to the Altiplano. There are interesting archaeological “geoglyphs”or ancient wall drawings and “pukaras” or Indian fortresses and the world's oldest mummies at the Azapa valley. Arica has long sandy beaches along with a bustling port.
Atacama Desert has so much to offer we have covered this destination separately on the following link: Atacama Desert
Putre is the capital of the Parinacota Province in the Arica-Parinacota Region. It is located 130 km east of Arica. It is located at the base of the Tarapaca Volcano, this scenic Aymara village is located on the edge of the Laura National Park and is popular with visitors to the National Park wishing to acclimatise to the altitude. The village has a church dating from 1670 and has a population of approximately 1,200. Putre provides an ideal centre for hiking with an extensive network of trails which lead to numerous villages in the mountains. Close by, there are four archaeological sites with cave paintings up to 6,000 years old.
Iquique is an attractive port and city with well preserved historical buildings. Popular with local and international tourists, Iquique is one of the main towns of the Atacama Desert region. Once the centre of the mining of nitrates (used in explosives and fertilizer), Iquique still maintains the nostalgic mood of that bygone era in many of the older buildings that have been preserved. It was also the site of one of the largest naval battles in history. It features a duty free shopping area and beautiful white sand beaches for those who just want to relax.. Around Iquique, the desert pampa stretches north, south and to the mountains. Mamiña and Pica are within easy reach of Iquique; both are beautiful, tranquil places. A short distance north of the town is the Duty Free Zone which sells all manner of imported items including electronic goods. The beaches at Cavancha just south of the town centre are beautiful and are best visited between November-March.
Here you will discover clear skies 300 nights of the year in the Elqui Valley to appreciate the astronomy that many visitors come to this area to enjoy along with the city and beaches of La Serena itself. The capital of the 4th region of Coquimbo, La Serena, is the 2nd oldest city in Chile. Founded in 1544 by the Spaniard Juan Bohon and after his death it was re-founded, this time by his successor, Francisco de Aguirre. The city of La Serena is located 470 kilometres north of Santiago and has the Elqui Valley nearby. You can relax by the beach in one of the many hotels or cabins on offer or adventure into the Elqui Valley observatories and famous “Pisco” factory.