A travel journal
to Arica by SeenThat
Quote: "Dramatic" is not a strong enough adjective to describe Arica’s landscape; Chile’s northern tip is a narrow strip of desert by the Pacific Ocean, placed just where the Andean Plateau finish its sudden and rapid decent to the coast. Beaches, cliffs, desert, cacti, and llamas delimit this cute town.
The 185km to Bolivia is something not from this world; in a few hours, you climb more than 4km from sea level through one of the most arid deserts on earth to the Andean Plateau, where beyond the volcanoes at its gate there are endless types of potatoes cultivated among alpaca herds. A few hours south is Iquique, which, with its duty-free zone, attracts hordes of people from the three surrounding countries in search of bargains.
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Manuel Baquedano 569
Most of the way climbs through a very arid landscape, with occasional llamas and cactuses, but 150km after the departure, you will arrive to Putre, the Tarapaca Region’s capital. It is well worth visiting the place since it retained the colonial features of previous centuries, including a church of adobe, called Iglesia de Putre, dating back to 1670. The international bus does not stop here; if you want to visit, you should take a local one from Arica’s terminal.
The spectacular limit is divided in two different areas: the Chilean and Bolivian outposts are some 10km from each other, and each one provides different views. The Chilean side name is Chungara, which is the name of the neighboring lake as well, and both are at 4844m above sea level. The deep-blue water practically touches the immigration building ,and friendly birds will allow you to take their pictures while you wait to your stamp. Beyond the lake, there are two beautiful volcanoes of an almost perfect conical shape that are called Nevados de Payachata and which occasionally smoke.
Once in Bolivia, the pass is called Paso Portezuelo de Tambo Quemado. Beyond it, you can clearly sea the highest mountain in Bolivia, actually a silent volcano called Sajama that rises up to 6,550m above sea level. From here on you are on the Bolivian Highlands, and if you are heading to La Paz, a slight decent along the plateau is all what expects you. The way between Arica and La Paz longs about 8 hours, and the morning buses include breakfast and lunch.
Once in Iquique, the main sights in the town are concentrated around Plaza Prat, not far away from the port, including the Torre Reloj (a stylish clocktower), the Teatro Municipal, the Croatian Club, and the Centro Español, which looks more like a Moroccan structure. The port area, especially the zone next to the bus terminal, north from the center, hosts many seafood restaurants, although few of their owners were inspired enough to place them in clear sight of the amazing ocean nearby. The southern coast offers some beautiful beaches, especially the Playa Cavancha; luckily, Chileans approach their beaches only at given times of the year. On a fine day, you may find an astounding beach with a tempered, pleasant ocean completely empty! The Zona Franca is where the duty-free shops are, and any city-bus traveling north will take you there, but the shopping centers had spread out of it. Well worth a note is the Ripley (it has nothing to do with the museums one) at Vivar 550. If you dined on a late lobster by the port, you may pass through the bus terminal around 10pm. At this hour, the buses leave to La Paz, Oruro and Cochabamba, and you will see the Bolivian traders packing the buses until their roofs bend in.
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