Arica is the perfect spot for renewing a Bolivian visa: this facet of such a visit is a modern variation of its colonial history.
The climate is arid: hot during the day and cold at night; the humidity is low at all times.
Arica was populated by the Chinchorro culture, which is notorious for its mummies; those date eight-thousand years back and predate the Egyptian ones. Technically they are not mummies, since all the muscles and soft tissues were removed from the bodies and then vegetal fibers were used to fill the gap between the bones and the skin. They can be watched in the Museo Arqueológico San Miguel de Azapa, twelve kilometers away from downtown Arica. It is open everyday between 10am and 6pm.
The Spaniards arrived to the area in 1535 and found it populated by the Ariaccas. Subsequently, the city was founded in 1541 and given a simplified version of that name: Arica. Quickly, it became the main exit port for the silver mined in the nearby Potosi. Due to the malaria, the control of the route was done from nearby Putre, halfway up to the plateau.
The silver trade attracted some of the worse pirates in history. In 1579 Francis Drake attacked it and afterwards Spilbergen arrived in 1615 and Watlin in 1681.
Decline and Revival
Two hundred years after Arica’s foundation, the silver trade moved to Buenos Aires and the city declined sharply. Instead, a trade in saltpeter and guano developed; the workers in those were mainly black slaves that were resistant to the malaria.
Earthquakes in 1604, 1615, 1681, 1868 and 1877 destroyed much of the city. The one in 1868 lead to the construction of two structures by Gustav Eiffel himself; he designed the metal structure of the Church of St. Marcus, which survived the 1877 earthquake, and the old customs building.
Arica was part of Peru until the Pacific War of 1879, when it was captured by Chile. The Treaty of 1929 legally transferred it to Chile.
The eradication of the malaria began in 1925 and was ended in 1953; nowadays the city provides a healthy environment to the visitors.
Arica still has an important port which serves Bolivia and the nearby Peruvian city of Tacna. Unfortunately, it occupies the city center and blocks the access to the beach from downtown.
The Morro is a distinctive hill delimiting the town to the south. It was where the main fight between the Peruvians and the Chileans was fought. Nowadays it became a symbol of peace and a “Cristo de la Concordia” statue was erected there.
A beautiful promenade leads from downtown to the beaches in the southern outskirts, from the Morro southwards. The Pacific Ocean offers here a glorious and unspoiled look; the sandy beach is wide and long offering thus a perfect place for relaxing and enjoying the views. Surprisingly enough, the citizens limit their visits to the beach to their vacations, thus the coast is pleasantly empty even in seasons warm enough to enter the water.
A few hours south of Arica is Iquique, that with its duty free zone attracts hordes of people from the three surrounding countries in search of bargains.