Capital of the Tarapaca region, Iquique is a major seaport for Chile, with such major exports as nitrates, iodine, salt, and guano, all rich in the immediately surrounding areas. It is the starting point for all excursions to the Altiplano and the old saltpeter offices, and also has a wonderfully mild, all year round climate perfect for enjoying its spectacular beaches and thriving casino nightlife.
Iquique is a quaint city of 152,000 that once belonged to Bolivia as an ore-exporting city. In town, the main attractions are the main plaza, the Astoreca Palace and its seashell collection, the Municipal Theater, the Casino Español, the plush gardens (the topsoil here had to be imported), the vintage railway station, the beautiful clock tower, and the museum commemorating the naval heroes of the War of the Pacific, during which Iquique was captured by Chile (1879).
Nowadays Iquique remains a bustling port and manufacturing center, including fish canning, petroleum refining, sugar refining, and the making of cement.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Iquique is the amazing collection of petroglyphs discovered in the surrounding areas. The mysterious Pintados Geoglyphs make up the largest collection of this kind of petroglyph in the world.
The drawings are truly fascinating and diverse, with small pictures on stones and boulders to enormous drawings on sides of hills. The petroglyphs usually consist of geometric forms, camelids and human figures. While in the area a visit to the Pica Oasis is worthwhile as well, with beautiful panoramic views of Dragon Hill, the coastal Cordillera, the city and the sea. The local church here in Pica is very beautiful, with a full-size painting of the Last Supper. The old ghost town of Humberstone, with its abandoned saltpeter processing complex, is also an eerie and fascinating experience.
A large portion of this text was written by Traveler - Writer Craig Milroy.