Antofagasta is the largest city in the Norte Grande region of Chile and the fourth largest in the entire country. It is the capital of the Antofagasta Province, and has the only protected harbor on the Pacific coast of Chile. The city serves as a domestic shipping center as well as the doorway for shipping into Bolivia. In 1870 the city was officially settled due to a nitrate mining boom in the adjacent Atacama Desert. Its principal exports are copper and nitrates, while silver, lead, zinc, and tungsten are also mined.
Because of the nitrite mining boom at the end of the 19th century, Antofagasta drew many foreigners from Europe wanting to cash in on the boom. As a result, the city today has a distinctly European feel in architecture and culture. A city tour should include visits to the Barrio Historico, with its many Victorian buildings, the clock tower of Plaza Colon (an exact replica of Big Ben), and of course, the beach! Antofagasta has some of the clearest skies in the world, and it is said that is sunny and beautiful 340 days out of the year.
Its wonderfully mild climate has caused the development of a lovely year-round beach resort. The main attraction of the Antofagasta beach front is the Portada, an enormous rock which has been eroded over time to form a spectacular natural arch.
For the history buffs, a visit to the Museo Regional is a must. Exhibits relate much about the history of the city, the surrounding areas, and the Norte Grande in general. Exhibits about the history of the mining industry in the region are perhaps the most interesting, and are accompanied by an impressive collection of rock and mineral samples culled from the region.
Some easy day trips include visits to the worlds highest geyser, El Tatio, which shoots up from the ground very early every morning. Waking up early for this spectacle is well worth it. In the afternoon take a look at the Salar de Atacama, an enormous lake with its top encrusted with salt. Because of this unique condition, the lake attracts many interesting species of birds, including several types of flamingo.
In fact it is very interesting to note that the worlds largest telescope is under construction at this time about 200km south of Antofagasta in Mount Paranal.
Antofagasta is perfect for visiting any time of year.
A large portion of this text was written by Traveler - Writer Craig Milroy.