Iquique is a city of 191,000 people (2017) in the Northern Chile. The city is home to the Zofri duty-free zone, and a growing number of high-rise resort hotels along its beaches. Slightly more expensive and polluted than neighboring population centers, such as Arica, but a convenient place to stock up on duty-free perfumes and laptop computers.
The city developed during the heyday of the saltpetre mining in the Atacama Desert in the 19th century. Once a Peruvian city with a large Chilean population, it was conquered by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879–1883). Today it is one of only two free ports of Chile, the other one being Punta Arenas, in the country's far south. Copper mining is also an important industry in Iquique.
Buses pull in on different locations. The 'main terminal' north of the centre serves most destinations, but quite a few buses from Arica pull in close to the central mercado in the cross between Calle Barros Arana and Thomson. 'Tur-bus' have their own terminal on Calle Esmeralda. Several daily arrivals from Arica, Antofagasta, Calama and Santiago (25 hr). Also buses from La Paz, Oruro and Cochabamba in Bolivia.
The last bus to Calama runs at 21:30 and arrives at 04:00 with bus company Fronte de Norte.
Micros run along the major streets in the center and takes you from the center to the Zofri in no time. Walking is the most convenient mode of transport for getting to and from the beaches.
You can share a taxi for 500 pesos and or get a private one for 2000 pesos. Faster than taking the bus.
- 1 Baquedano Street (Paseo Baquedano). A cobbled, old-Western style street with plentiful tourist and artisan activities. Buildings around constructed during the 19th century offer interesting architecture mainly in Georgian and Victorian styles adapted to the coastal desert climate.
- Historic sites can be found along the city and nearby the coast and desert, most of them related to the Pacific War against the coalition of Perú and Bolivia during the 19th century and with the massacre by the government against miner workforce demanding social and economical rights, known as "the Santa Maria School massacre".
- Iquique's 19th-century architecture can be visited mainly downtown. Its origins are linked with the mining activities during that century, when European entrepreneurs became rich with the extraction of saltpetre and established their homes in the city. Many of them constructed big houses in different styles that predominated during the period and grouped in colonies with their respective buildings, with special stylistic, material and constructive adaptations to the climate of Iquique. Important examples are the Spanish Casino, the Croatian Casino, the Chinese Club and the Municipal Theatre, one of the most important nationwide.
- 2 Astoreca Palace (Palacio Astoreca). The most emblematic house in the city belongs to Arturo Prat University as an extension centre.
Visiting beaches is a must. Iquique is known for its good weather and beaches (playas) with "Playa Cavancha" being the largest. Some of them are not suitable for swimming: submarine tides are dangerous in some places, as for example "Playa Brava" or "Playa Huayquique". There is also good surfing in town.
- The duty-free zone, Zofri, is located in the north of town. The shopping experience is somewhat set back by the fog of aerosol perfumes being sniffed and tested by snazzy dressed Chileans, but electronics are slightly cheaper than outside its fences. Memory cards are good deals, also alcoholic beverages (compared to the rest of the country). There is a maximum per person purchase limit of US$1000, although you better check this before making any larger purchases.
In the center of the city you can find many shops for buy clothes, toys and every kind of stuff.
Iquique's Chinese immigrants that arrived during the 19th century as slaves to work in saltpetre extraction, have had a distinct influence on the local food. The area around the Mercado is Iquique's Chinatown. You'll find a large number of Peruvian influenced "Chifa" restaurants here, all pretty expensive. The smaller restaurants between them are cheaper, and serve sandwiches and burgers for 800 pesos and up. McDonald's, Domino's, KFC, and other fast food chains can be found in malls.
For dessert you can try the chumbeque invented by Chinese descendants. It's prepared with layers of fried thin dough filled with different fruity caramels. Nearby towns in Iquique specially Pica and Matilla offer a variety of fruits and desserts made with them, the best known are the alfajores.
- 1 El Wagon, Thompson 85, ☏ . Outstanding and generous seafood. A bit more expensive than other places but it's worth it.
- Pizzeria Al filo D'Oro, O'Higgins 964, ☏ . Thick crust pizzas for 5000 pesos and up. Pleasant spot with outdoor seating.
- Neptuno, cavancha's peninsula. Is a market with marine food.
Pisco Sour prepared with lemons from "Pica" is the local speciality.
- Hostal La Casona 1920, Barros Arana 1585, ☏ . Close to all the important spots in Iquique lies this hostel. The fully equipped kitchen, free internet use, weekly BBQ in the huge patio and friendly staff make this owner managed hostel a must, when staying in Iquique. A dorm costs around 7000 pesos and includes a very nice breakfast.
- Hostal Li-Ming, Barros Arana 705, +56 57 421912. Convenient for buses arriving in the city center, just across the road from the terminal. Free use of kitchen, try to get breakfast included in the price before deciding. Twins without bath for 8000 pesos.
- Backpacker's Hostel, Amunategui 2075, +56 57 320 223. Very gringo- and Euro-friendly hostel, with lounge, TV, kitchen, breakfast, bar, ping-pong, hammocks, guitar, computer with internet, etc. Bikes, surf and bodyboards (plus equipment), and sandboards for rent. Close to the beach, not too far from historic district. Friday evening barbecue (~US$7). Multilingual staff is friendly, helps organize other activities. Matrimonial suite and separate cabin available. 5500 pesos per night.
- Hotel Oregon, San Martin 294 (near Turbus and centre), ☏ . 20-minute walk to the beach. High ceilings. Single with bath CLP$6000.
- Teacher`s house, Ramirez 839, ☏ . A beautiful garden, small gym, paragliding, tours and information, breakfast, bar, wi-fi, laundry, rent a bike, help organize other activities. Located in the historic center of Iquique, at 6 blocks from Cavancha beach. Doubles, Matrimonial suites, dorms. Private bathrooms. With bathrooms, 7000 pesos; without bathroom, 5500 pesos.
- Uma Jaqi Surf Hostal, Opispo Labbe 1591, ☏ , , email@example.com. Hostel with a young atmosphere and a surf and bodyboard school. Single, double and shared rooms, all with shared bathroom & a kitchen for free use; affordable prices.