Arica, Chile, at the surface, may look like a grungy little port town with little tourist appeal. However, those who give this little seaside town a chance tend to fall in love with it, and the city’s friendly people have a lot to do with that. Arica, is the driest city in the world, so it seems a little bit odd that the activities available to take part in here revolve so directly around water. Arica can be used as a stopping off point for travel to Peru, Bolivia or the rest of Chile, but travellers would be making a mistake if they were to chose not to spend a day or two relaxing in this sleepy Pacific Coast city.
Things to do in Arica
- Beach: There are a number of beaches in Arica and you don’t need to travel far to reach them. Just south of the city you’ll find the quietest beaches, but if you’re looking for a little bit busier beach the
- Surfing: You’d be hard pressed to find a better place in South America to surf than Arica. In fact, many of the pro surfer competitions are held in this city. There are decent breaks by the lighthouse. If you’re a very good surfer you’ll likely want to give the breaks at El Gringo a shot.
- Viewpoint Hike: From downtown you can hike up the hill to a brilliant view point called Morro de Arica which overlooks the city and the sea. Up top there is also a statue of christ and a memorial to the war of the Pacific which was fought on this ground.
- Markets: Arica is known as a stop by many Chileans and Peruvians alike as a shopping destination. Thanks to the port, Arica is actually a duty free town thus offering very low prices on things like electronics.
Where to Eat in Arica
Head over to the pedestrian street of Colon when you’re looking for a good meal. The owner of the Arica Surf House pointed me in the direction of crepe restaurant on the street which was incredible and well priced (about 8US$ for a meal and drink). There is also a Schoop Dog on Colon where you can get heart attack dishes and a tall beer tower called a rocket. Colon has a great eating vibe to it, and is also a good place to just grab a beer in the early evening. If you are on a very tight budget there are lots of little shops and restaurants scattered around town with cheap meals.
Where to Stay in Arica
I’ve been to Arica twice and I’ve staying in the same place on each occasion. The Arica Surf House is the place to stay in town. This family run hostel has some of the friendliest staff, very clean rooms, and a great kitchen to cook up a storm in. Guests really become more than just visitors but part of the family.