The fact that Iquique, Chile is one of the most under rated beach destinations in all of South America probably has a lot to do with the fact that the city is basically in the middle of nowhere. Situated a half dozen hours south of the Peruvian border and a half dozen north of Antofagasta, this sprawling beach city is no secret to residents of Northern Chile. The ocean waters of Iquique are warmer then their southern counterparts, and there is much more to do than just relax on the beach. If you’re not into long bus rides, this is a good stop to break up what can be a very long journey along the coast.
Time Needed: 1-3 Days
Budget: 30-50$ / day
Things to do in Iquique
- Plaza Prat: This plaza is one of the unexpected gems of Northern Chile. The plaza features an old clock tower and theater from the 1800s as well as this brilliantly restored Casino Espanol built just after the turn of the century.
- Museo Regional: This museum borders on creepy in a number of ways, but is worth a look if you have the time. The museum is home to pre-inca mummies, animal fetuses and even some human skulls.
- Paragliding: Along with Lima, Peru this is one of the great places in South America to paraglide. The cost of a flight is about 50US$ and will offer you amazing views of the coastline of Iquique.
- The Beaches: If all you want to do is kick back on the beach and relax, or maybe play in some gentle waves then you’ve come to the right place. The most popular, and biggest beach, is Playa Cavancha, but if you’re looking for a quieter spot try Playa Brava. The beaches here pack in the high season (December to March).
- Surfing: The quality of surf is best at Playa Huaicaquique, but is also possible off a couple breaks on Playa Cavancha. Both body and surf boards, along with wetsuits, are available for rent in town. The surf is better in Arica, but will definitely still entertain most here as well.
Where to Eat in Iquique
Iquique features everything from international fast food to street vendors selling empanadas to great seafood restaurants. I recommend a place called El Tercer Ojito (the third eye) which offers both Peruvian seafood dishes like ceviche as well as Indian foods like curries. If you’re looking for a very cheap meal check out the central market for quick Chilean fast food.
Where to Stay in Iquique
There are actually a god variety of hostels to stay at in Iquique, and for reasonable prices. I stayed in a hostel called Casona 1920 which is an old colonial house turned into a very well managed and well taken care of hostel. The price of a dorm was 14US$ a night.
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