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Antofagasta is a city in Northern Chile. The Atacama desert rises in the east and the Pacfic Ocean provides a western limit. This is an industrial centre in the region and is perhaps the least pleasant city in the north. A refurbished seafront makes this city more attractive for tourists. Travellers heading to San Pedro de Atacama and between the far north and central Chile might find it a convenient stopover.


In Chile, Antofagasta is known as "the Pearl of the North"

The city of Antofagasta is closely linked to mining activity. Half of the copper produced in the country comes from here. There has been a steady growth in the areas of construction, retail, hotel accommodations, population growth, and remarkable skyline development.


In the 1870s, Chilean miners found rich deposits of saltpeter (nitratine) in the field of Salar del Carmen, to the east of the present Antofagasta. The region was part of Bolivia at this time, and the growth of mining led to the settlement of La Chimba, which was designated as a port in 1868, and was soon renamed Antofagasta.

Ten years later, the War of the Pacific broke out between Chile and Bolivia, and Chile occupied Antofagasta in 1879. While a truce was signed in 1884, sovereignty over the area was not settled until a 1905 treaty assigned it to Chile "in perpetuity".

In 1991, a mudslide devastated much of the city, undermining land, damaging 2,464 houses and destroying 493 buildings. The disaster left 92 dead, 16 missing and about 20,000 homeless. In 1995, the city was hit by an earthquake measuring 7.3 on the Richter Scale. It left three people dead and hundred injured, but structural damage was minor for the magnitude of the event.

  • Sernatur, Arturo Prat 384 (just off Plaza Colon), +56 600 600 60 66. Monday to Friday 08:30-18:00. Helpful tourist information with maps on the city and the region.

Get in[edit]

Map of Antofagasta

By car[edit]

Route CH-5 connects the city with the rest of the country and is part of the Panamerican Highway. This route connects to the city by Route CH-26 in the north of the city, and Route CH-28 to the south. In addition, the city is connected to the north of the country by Route CH-1, a way that also allows access to Andrés Sabella Gálvez International Airport and the natural monument La Portada.

By bus[edit]

There is no real centralized bus terminal, but all the major companies have their grounds within a block or so of each other, centered on the crossing of La Torre and Bolivar. Many daily departures/arrivals: Calama, San Pedro de Atacama (5 hours, 7,400 pesos, Tur-Bus), Iquique, Arica, Copiapó, La Serena (12 hours, 10,000 pesos) and Santiago.

Buses do not run from downtown, but from Terminal Carlos Oviedo Cavada north of town.

By plane[edit]

  • Andrés Sabella Gálvez International Airport (ANF IATA) (in Cerro Moreno, north of the city). It is served by three airlines that offer domestic flights only:

Get around[edit]


The area of interest for most visitors is easily covered on foot.

13 lines of minibuses, with a capacity of fewer than 30 people, serve the city.

Taxis lines, served by black sedans. make their way through the urban area through fixed routes.


"La portada" natural monument in Antofagasta.


  • La Portada, a natural rock arch formation between Antofagasta and Mejillones.
  • Ruinas de Huanchaca, the vestiges of an old iron foundry.
  • La Mano del Desierto, a sculpture of giant hand rising from the sand. 75 km south of the city.


  • Sea lions, pelicans and smaller birds getting fed on fish waste in the fishermen´s harbour.
  • The sunset from the seafront walk to the south.



A nice sunny weather, make going to the multiple artificial beaches along the coast an enjoyable activity for any season.

Beaches in the area are:

  • Balneario Municipal


  • Cinemas in the two large seafront malls.
  • Walk the pedestrian mall that links the two main squares, Plaza Sotomayor with its market, and Plaza Colon with its Big Ben replica.



  • Georgio pizza, 14 de febrero 2403 (in the corner with Calle Boliviar), +56 55 789157. Great pizzas in an unpretentious and pleasant atmosphere. Take away available. Pizza and drinks for two is 7000 pesos. No beer.
  • More than a dozen tiny restaurants at the Mercado, Plaza Sotomayor. All offer set lunches at 1500 pesos. Number 67 is good.


  • The bars in the center are either strip clubs or purely male workers' hang-outs (the girls you see are at work).
  • The pedestrian Paseo Arturo Prat has a couple of pavement cafes, that are good for people watching.
  • A few decent spots along Av. O´Higgins (a.k.a. Av. Brasil), and also the seafront parallel to it.
  • The otherwise standard hellish food court of the Mall Plaza has a neat outside area with a couple of bars and restaurants.
  • Wally´s Pub, Antonio Toro 982 (By the South end of O´Higgins). A genuine ex-pats hang-out, neatly laid out, with a full restaurant menu. Warm and friendly with a great atmosphere. Small beer 2000 pesos, main course 9000 pesos.



Many options in the area near the bus terminals. If you get further inland from here, it can get seedy at night.

  • Casa de Huesped Cataluna, Bolivar 572 (Half a block from the bus terminals), +56 55 780001. Not so clean rooms - bugs and smell from joss sticks, shared bathroom (bring towel and toilet paper), big, comfy beds, thin walls let you here the birds sing in their cage in the hall and also everything else. Single 10,000 pesos, double 13,000 pesos.
  • Hotel Rawaye, Calle Sucre 762, +56 55 225339. Run down old building with steaming hot showers and birds nesting in the ceiling. Fascinating amount of headroom in the bathrooms. Some rooms are quieter than others Single 9,000 pesos, double 15,000 pesos.

Stay safe[edit]

Beware of pickpockets at the bus terminals when leaving. They'll try to snatch your belongings when you load your bags into the buses. Always park your private vehicle in guarded parking lot (estacionamiento). The free guarded parking at supermarkets is not safe.



Go next[edit]

  • Any bus heading for Mejillones will let you off at the road cross by La Portada, from where there is a 3-km walk to see a natural stone arch in the sea.
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