Copiapó is a town of 150,000 people (2017) in Northern Chile. It's a pleasant stop if passing by bus, overlooked by beautiful hills and surrounded by vineyards. Although it's in the southern end of the Atacama desert, the area was once more lush oasis than now, reflected in the town's first name in 1744: San Francisco de la Selva, Saint Francis of the Jungle. In 1854 the first railway line in South America was built here.
The town is surrounded by the Atacama Desert and receives very little rain. Copiapó is in a rich silver and copper mining district.
The Copiapó-Caldera railway line, built in 1850, was the first one in South America. The original wooden railway station is now a National Monument.
Tourism in Copiapó has been developing since the early 21st century. Some come to see the desert and indigenous monuments, such as the Inca cemetery in the city, which was investigated in the 1930s. In addition, a new casino has attracted domestic and foreign tourists, and hotels have invested in new amenities and structures to satisfy demand.
Copiapó is about 65 km east of the coastal town of Caldera, and 800 km north of Santiago.
Buses pull in from the north (Antofagasta, Iquique, Arica) and south (La Serena, Santiago) at the terminals south of the city centre. Tur-bus has their terminal on Calle Chañarcillo and Pullman has theirs on Colipi.
- Mineralogical Museum (Museo Mineralógico) (at the intersection of Colipi and Rodríguez streets), ☏ . Daily until 17:45. Close to the centre and an interesting collection of minerals. 600 pesos.
- Wooden railway station, Juan Martínez street. Built in 1854 and today a National Monument, it is part of the first railway line in South America, linking Copiapó with the port of Caldera. It is a museum. It is an adaptation of the neoclassical style, a vestige of the splendid past of mining in Copiapó.
- Plaza de Armas. It is called Plaza Prat in homage to Arturo Prat, Chilean hero, has many peppers, a statue and a marble fountain, and four statues that symbolize the seasons of the year.
- Universidad de Atacama. Created in 1981, it is heir to the Copiapó School of Mines created in 1857, among its beautiful gardens is the first locomotive ("La Copiapó") that circulated in Chile and South America in 1851.
- Alameda Manuel Antonio Matta. A beautiful avenue where the "Crypt a los Heroes de Atacama" is located, dedicated to the Copiapinos who fought in the War of the Pacific (1879-1884) against Peru and Bolivia. Also in this Alameda is the modern and spectacular Municipal Theater of Copiapó, next to it the Chamber Hall and on the other side the Church of San Francisco, neoclassical in style, in front of this church is the Plaza de Juan Godoy, with a monument to this Copiapino miner, the monument was made in Scotland in the 19th century and as a curiosity it is dressed in the Scottish way, that is, with a skirt and other accessories from the British country. At the other end of the Alameda is the old mansion of the railway officials, in a neoclassical style, today restored it is the seat of an important public service
- Cerro La Cruz. An arid hill from where you have a privileged view of the city of Copiapó and the green valley that surrounds it.
- Casona de los Matta. Regional Historical Museum. A neoclassical mansion that belonged to the wealthy Matta family, men dedicated to the mining business and public service, founders of the Radical Party, a party that was born in Copiapó in the mid-nineteenth century.
- Copiapó Municipal Cemetery. A sample of the rich history of Copiapó and Chile. It is possible to see mausoleums of veterans of the War of the Pacific, the Matta family, of Pedro León Gallo (local leader and founder together with the Matta brothers of the Radical Party), the mausoleum of the victims of the 1932 Christmas uprising, an unknown fact of the Chileans when a Communist Party cell tried to take over the Copiapó Regiment, causing the death of several innocent soldiers and civilians. It is worth a visit, it is located just a few blocks south of the Plaza de Armas on Calle Chacabuco.
- The San José Copper Mine (closed in 2010)
- Totoralillo, Totoral and the zone of "Travesía" on the coast, wherein after rain, the "Desierto Florido" appears
- In the Andes, the Ojos del Salado volcano, and the lakes Green and Negro Francisco
- The Plaza A. Pratt is a very pleasant park in the centre of town, great for reading or just spending a few hours relaxing in the shade. It has a lot of interesting trees and comfortable benches.
- Tres Cruces National Park in the Andes
- La Candelaria Festival During the first days of February of each year the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria is celebrated, in homage to the patron saint of the miners, the festival includes typical dances from the north of Chile with costumes and groups, thousands of people arrive people from all over Chile and neighboring countries. In addition, a trade fair is held.
- A large Lider supermarket on Chacabuco 120 is very close to the centre and the bus terminals. Great for self-caterers or if stocking up before a bus ride.
- Maspizza, Atacama 671, +56 52 232856. Good pizzas at reasonable prices. Wide variety of toppings, popular. Pizza for two from 3000 pesos.
- Residencial Lendy, Calle Chacabuco 173, +56 52 235990. Basic but very friendly in a family's home. Close to bus terminals. 23:30 curfew, use of kitchen, stores luggage. A twin without bath is 8000 pesos (have exact change at hand).