Calama is just the gateway to San Pedro de Atacama for the most tourists.
However, the nearby Chuquicamata is the world's largest 1 open-pit copper mine, along with its associated abandoned 2 mining town, and is located just outside of Calama. Tours can be done to visit the mine.
Two bus stations exist in Calama, the regular 1 Terminal de Buses where all regular national buses (Turbus, Pullman, etc.) stop, coming from Arica and Iquique (overnight), or Antofagasta (every 2 hr or so). And there are the 2 bus stations along Calle Antofagasta with the more frequent (at least every 2 hr) and cheaper (3,000 pesos) bus companies of KTur, Atacama2000, etc. serving San Pedro. Make sure you get of the national bus before the Terminal de Buses or you will have to walk back into town 1.5 km to catch the more frequent San Pedro Buses. If you are heading for San Pedro, transferring in Calama is mostly cheaper and faster.
- 3 KTur Bus Station, Calle Antofagasta, ☏ , , . Calama to San Pedro: 07:30, 11:00, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00, 19:00. San Pedro to Calama: 07:30, 10:45, 13:00, 15:00, 17:00 20:45. Calama to Toconao: 07:30, 17:00, 19:00. Toconao to Calama: 07:00, 10:00, 20:00. 3,000 pesos from San Pedro.
Normally, overnight buses arrive from Iquique or Arica in the early morning hours, but the bus company will let you sleep on the bus for a few hours until morning so there is no need to book a hotel or hostel.
Calama is served by three airlines:
- JetSmart from Concepción, La Serena, Santiago de Chile
- LATAM from La Serena, Lima, Santiago de Chile
- Sky Airline from Concepción and Santiago de Chile
Calama is not large and most of the city centre can be covered on foot. Collectivos (shared taxis) run fixed routes and cost 700 pesos, while buses, named with letters of the alphabet, cost about 300 pesos.
- 3 Plaza 23 de Mayo. with its Cathedral is the centre of the city. From there starts in eastern direction a pedestrian area Eleuterio Ramírez.
- 4 Chuquicamata Mine, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Chuquicamata can only be visited on a free guided tour organized by the Chilean state-owned copper company Codelco. Although mining operations run throughout the year, tours are only conducted from Mondays to Fridays, holidays excepted. Reservations need to be made in advance through email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through telephone at +56 552322122. You need to provide your name, number of people, number of people of 7 years and below, your country and any medical issues that could influence the tour.
The tour departs at 13:00 from the 4 Codelco Norte visitor office on the north side of Calama, at the junction of Central Sur and Granaderos. The office is accessible by Buses B and D, and should not be confused with the Codelco Norte headquarters building opposite the Calama Plaza Mall on Balmaceda.
Your should wear long trousers, long sleeve shirt and covered shoes. You will get a helmet and warning west at the office. The tour itself is free but you will be asked for a voluntary donation for the children's fund.
The tour is conducted simultaneously in English and Spanish. It begins with a circuit around Chuquicamata town, once a thriving company town with banks, restaurants and playgrounds, but which has since been evacuated due to legal and health issues. The bus does not stop for visitors to get off in the town. The tour bus continues into the mine, passing mining trucks and old equipment, and stops to let visitors off at the Mirador, which offers a panoramic view of the central mine. There are some informational posters on the copper and mining extraction process, and a pile of copper ore for visitors to pick through.
You also can sign up at the local municipal 1 Tourist Office. It's located at Parque El Loa (south part of city)—access to the office is from Avenida O'Higgins (not from inside the park). Otherwise, you can also contact the tourism office in Antofagasta if everything else fails: https://www.sernatur.cl/oficinas-de-informacion-turistica/ [dead link] - +56 55 2451818 / 2451819 - email@example.com
- 5 Memorial for '73 Disappeared. In the desert on the way to San Pedro you can find this memorial.
- There's a small amusement park for children off the main square in town.
- And you can go to the mall. There's a movie theater, but be warned, all the movies are in Spanish.
- 1 Feria Modelo. Great for shopping, food and cloths.
- Hostal Nativo, Sotomayor 2215 (at junction with Granaderos, close to the city centre and bus terminals), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Check-out: noon. Clean rooms with hot shower available. Wi-fi is available in both the lobby and the rooms. 9,000/18,000 pesos for a single room with/without bathroom, 23,000 pesos for a double room with bathroom, 30,000 pesos for a triple room, 2,500 pesos for parking.
- Hotel Aymara, Abapoa 2120 A. Nice hotel near the city centre. Big room, clean shower and toilet, TV, wifi. Price includes breakfast. 30,000 pesos.
- San Pedro de Atacama is two hours away by bus.