Arica is a seaside resort town of 223,000 (2016) in Northern Chile. It's quiet, relaxed and safe, with several nice beaches and sun virtually every day of the year. Its mild weather has made Arica known as the "city of the eternal spring" in Chile while its beaches are frequented by Bolivians. This city is the northern gateway to Peru and Bolivia.
Arica has a mild, temperate climate with one of the lowest annual rainfall rates anywhere in the world. You will rarely find any clouds in Arica, although the sky can sometimes be darkened with a sort of fog called camanchaca.
The city was an important port already during Spanish colonial rule. Chile seized the city from Peru in 1880 during the War of the Pacific, being recognized as Chilean by Peru in 1929. A substantial part of African Chileans live in or trace their origins to Arica.
Near the city is the Azapa Valley, an oasis where vegetables and Azapa olives are grown. Economically, it is an important port for Chilean ore. It is also a center of rail communication with Bolivia and has its own international airport. Arica has strong ties with the city of Tacna, Peru; many people cross the border daily to travel between the cities, partly because many services (for example, dentists) are cheaper on the Peruvian side. Arica is connected to Tacna in Peru and to La Paz in Bolivia by separate railway lines.
Numerous buses arrive daily from centers further south in Chile. Daily buses come in from Bolivia, La Paz, Cochabamba and Oruro (If you wish to come from Oruro you should note that you will also have to get a bus to Patacamaya to transfer to the bus to Arica, there are no direct buses. It may be best to go to La Paz — they have direct buses — because the transfer is very confusing!). Colectivos (shared taxis) arrive and depart continually from Peru during the border opening hours of 08:00-22:00, taking passengers from the International Terminal in Arica to the International Terminal in Tacna, Peru. From the National Terminal (alongside) buses come in from other centers in Peru. There are no direct buses from Arequipa, Cusco or Puno to Arica.
Also, there are trains coming from La Paz (Bolivia) and Tacna (Peru).
Walking will get you most places in town, although buses run along the major avenues for those in a hurry. They are also handy for getting to and from the bus station. The usual fare is 320 pesos.
Radio taxis (colectivos) average 550 pesos per trip.
- 1 Cathedral of San Marcos (St. Mark's Cathedral) (entry is from Plaza Colón). The magnificent church designed by Gustave Eiffel (who also designed that tower in Paris) was built in the 1870s. It's a popular attraction.
- 2 Morro de Arica. A steep hill that overlooks Arica from 139 m above sea level. The views from el Morro are superb. You can follow the work being done in the harbour closely or gaze at the mountains gradually turning into the altiplano in the east. The hill looks like a giant sand dune from a distance but it is in fact made of solid rock. The paved footpath visible from anywhere in town starts at the south end of Calle Colón. Allow 10 minutes for walking up, and enough time for philosophic discussions on top. There is a war museum on the hill for those into uniforms and cannons from the 19th century. Beware of the dishonest Coca Cola vending machines; bring water and snacks from town. The hill, together with the archaeological Museo de Sitio Colón 10 museum next to it and the mouth of Camarones River some 100 km south of Arica make up a world heritage site related to the pre-Columbian Chinchorro culture and their mummification practices.
- Plaza Colón: the civic heart of the city, the public square is where its residents congregate for celebrations, diversions or just being a part of the community.
- Museoa Arqueologico San Miguel de Azapa (Archaeological Museum), Camino Azapa, San Miguel de Azapa (16 km east of Arica). Daily 10:00-18:00. Outside the museum you can find petroglyphs. The exhibition has more than 20,000 archaeological pieces.
- Surfing and boogieboarding is good around Arica. The beaches north of town are good for beginners, while more experienced surfers go south of el Morro. There is a surfshop in the centre, but it's best to bring your own board.
- Bathing and sunbathing on the beaches north of town. Summer is the main season, in winter you'll have the beaches for yourself. Water is cold.
- Trekking "Playa Corazones" area
- Visit nearby valleys with olive trees plantations
- Chifa Maxi, Baquedano 494. Delightfully slow and nonexistent service at this authentic Chinese place with vegetarian options. Popular. Take away available.
- La Casa del Coctel, San Martin 495, +56 58 250400. Excellent cheese empananas in downtown Arica. Fastfood from 500 pesos.
- La Nanu, Av. Santa Maria 1182, +56 58 312399. Great empanadas (21 different kinds). Between the bus station and the centre. Also pizza. Good for vegetarians.
- Lider Supermercado, 18 de septiembre 401. Well stocked supermarket in a convenient location. Good for stocking up on cheap mineral water, as the tapwater in the area is not recommended for drinking.
- Los Aleros de 21
- Don Floro
- Restaurant La Gran Familia, Los Pelicanos #2060 (diego portales), ☏ . This restaurant has fish, seafood, salads and beef. Attention! only Sunday at lunch hour.
- Residencial Ivonne, ☏ . Clean double rooms with private bathroom for US$34 per night as of June 2012. Very safe, no breakfast, patchy Wi-Fi, Laundry. Walking distance to the beach. Just a couple blocks from the bus station. Bernardaivonne@HotMail.com
- Hostal Ecuador, Juan Noé 989, +56 58 251934. Quiet place a short distance from the centre. Breakfast included, use of kitchen CLP4,500, hot water mornings only. A twin with bath is 10,000 pesos, try bargaining.
- Sunny Days (near bus station and beach.). Check-out: 12:00. 20 minutes walk to the centre. Excellent breakfast (included). Kiwi owner. Huge kitchen and a lovely view from the rooftop Dorm beds for around 8,000 pesos and doubles 9,000 pesos per person..
- Hotel Arica
- Hotel Azapa Inn
- Hotel Plaza Colon
- HI Arica, Manuel Rojas #2864 (Chapiquina con Blest Gana), ☏ , , firstname.lastname@example.org. Very friendly hostel, clean rooms, kitchen, with breakfast, nice and helpful staff. 6,000 double with private bathroom, dorm US$8.
- Arica Unite Hotel, Vicente Dagnino 117, ☏ , email@example.com. Hostel close from the bus station and the beach. Very good atmosphere, perfect for those who are looking for fiestas. Rooms are new and clean. Hot showers, excellent breakfast and friendly staff. 6,000 pesos.
- Buses and shared taxis (colectivos) to Tacna, Peru leave regularly all day and take 1½-2 hours. These can be caught from the international bus terminal, which is only about 100 m from the main bus terminal, across the car park. As of 2014, colectivos cost 4,000 pesos, or 18 Peruvian soles, and leave as soon as they are full (4 or 5 passengers); the driver also helps you through immigration and customs. Buses cost less, but take much longer. From Tacna, buses go regularly to Arequipa, Lima, and Puno. For Cusco, it is necessary to change buses in either Arequipa or Puno.
- Buses to Iquique leaves every hour from the main Terminal Rodovario. Tickets are 7,000 pesos and the trip takes 5 hours. Also frequent departures to Santiago and two companies operating a daily service to San Pedro de Atacama (departing at night), Tur-Bus (13,000 pesos, 11 hours) and Espresso Norte (10,000 pesos, but you need to change buses in Calama).
- Lauca National Park. Chungará Lake is the main attraction in this wilderness park surrounded by volcanoes and adjacent to the border with Bolivia. Tour operators and touts will try to grab you on the pedestrian streets in the center, but hiring a car or getting on a bus to Bolivia and getting off in Parinacota on the Chilean side or Lagunas on the Bolivian might work out cheaper.
- 3 Mouth of Camarones River (Desembocadura de Camarones). The mouth of Camarones river is, together with the hill and museum mentioned in See, the third component in the world heritage site Settlement and Artificial Mummification of the Chinchorro Culture in the Arica and Parinacota Region. This was an important settlement during the pre-Columbian Cinchorro culture.