Caldera is a town of 16,000 people (2012) on the coast of Northern Chile. It has a pleasant main square and some beaches, but most people going to the beach head to nearby Bahía Inglesa.
It has a harbor protected by breakwaters, being the port city for the productive mining district centering on Copiapó to which it is connected by the first railway constructed in Chile.
Mainstays of the economy are copper ore mining and cultivation of citrus plants which are exported from the port. Fishing and tourism also play an important role. The beaches attract many visitors.
The climate is mostly warm and extremely dry, because of its location on the Atacama desert's coast, but the temperatures are moderated by the cooling sea currents. However, the climate has become colder because of climate change.
Caldera lies about 75 km (47 mi) west of Copiapó on the Pacific.
All buses going to and from Copiapó can let you off near Caldera on Route 5. It's about a 30-minute walk to the center.
There are two bus stations in town: The 1 Pullman Station and the 2 Expreso Norte Station, which are also served by other companies. Tickets can be bought there. Furthermore, a Pullman and Turbus office can be found just north(west) of the plaza towards the main beach.
The town is small enough to be discovered on foot.
- Former Railway Station: The first in Chile, its construction dates back to 1850, with the beginnings of the works for the railway Caldera–Copiapó, the first railway station in Chile and the third one in South America. It was designed to house a complete train in order to protect valuable minerals brought from Chañarcillo. The walls were made of mud and reeds from Guayaquil, with a wooden roof made of Oregon Pine. Inside it had a passenger platform and three load lines, all covered by a large shed 82 m long by 32 m wide. It now also holds a paleontology museum.
- Church of San Vicente de Paul: Built in 1862 in wood with a stone floor and a Gothic wooden tower. Inside there is an image of the Virgin of Sorrows, brought from Peru as spoils of war after the military campaigns during the War of the Pacific.
- Cave of Padre Negro: A pilgrimage center built on a rock by the Colombian priest Crisógono Sierra, known locally as Padre Negro (Spanish for "Black Father"). Inside there are murals by the painter Luis Enrique Cerda.
- Municipal Cemetery of Caldera: The first secular cemetery in Chile, it was inaugurated on 20 September 1876. In its historical sector, mausoleums and tombs have cast iron structures made by English craftsmen and Carrara marble tombstones.
- Tornini House Museum: a private museum that houses historical artifacts relating to the city-port of Caldera, the Constitutional Revolution (1859), the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), and the Italian immigration in the late nineteenth century. The property was built around 1875 by the Railway Administration Manager, Thomas Smith, and later purchased by Henry B. Beazley, British Consul to Copiapó, Caldera and Peru. On 14 October 1907 it was acquired by Bernardo Tornini Capelli, serving for some years as viceconsular seat of the Kingdom of Italy.
- Orbicular Granite Nature Sanctuary: This geological oddity is 11 km north of Caldera. It is a formation of a small area, about 400 m², with circular rock mineral scales on granite rocks, giving a peculiar appearance. Given the unusual nature the rock formation, it was declared a nature sanctuary in 1981 and is protected by conservation laws that apply to this type of landmark.
- 1 Bahía Inglesa (6 km from Caldera). "English Bay" has a population of 135 inhabitants (2002), it is named for the visit made by the English pirate Edward Davis. It is known particularly for its white sands and warm waters, in addition to good infrastructure for receiving both domestic and foreign visitors. There are camping facilities, hotels, restaurants and summer houses that can be rented on the spot. In the bay is an underwater museum.
- Playa La Virgen: A beach 35 km south of Bahía Inglesa and 68 km west of Copiapó, which due to its white sand and warm waters has been considered the best beach in Chile for several years. Its name, meaning "Virgin Beach", is because on a road to the beach there is a rock which resembles the Virgin Mary. This beach has facilities for camping, parking, and has restaurants nearby.
- 1 Banco Estado (just northeast of the plaza). M-F 09:00-14:00. Exchanges money at very competitive rates.
- Casa de la Empanada, Atacama & Salvador num 884, ☏ . Sort of an institution as far as empanadas go in Caldera.
- Vecino Otto, Gallo 203 (two blocks north from main square). Some good local cuisine.
- Delfin restorant, Marisquería y Pescadería (attached to the historic train station on the waterfront). Nice sea views and seafood.
- El Plateao, 756 Avenida El Morro, Bahia Inglesa. Great waterfront restaurant with indoor or outdoor seating and great views of the beach. Marketed as a Thai restaurant, but the cuisine is a bit more eclectic than that.
- Kavana, Carvallo, 299A (a block or two away from the main square, towards Route 5). Juices, drinks, cocktails, and snacks. Computers with internet (CLP$600/hour or so) and wi-fi!
- Residencial Millaray, Tocornal 371 (on the square), ☏ . Simple accommodation; you can use the kitchen. 7,000-8,000 pesos.
- Ckamur Hospedaje Boutique, Camino Al Faro 1018, Mirador de Charito, ☏ , email@example.com. Cute lodge by the water with nice architecture and simple accommodations. Each apartment has a kitchen and access to the patio with firepits and barbecues. The owners (Rodrigo and Andrea) are extremely friendly and accommodating.
- Laundry. There is a woman who does a laundry service out of her house. If you are in the main square facing the church, walk up (south) on the street on the right of the church. In about 2 or 3 blocks, there is a sign for Lavandería and it has the address. You can also ask, everyone seems to know it.
The plaza offers free WiFi, but the connection is not always reliable.
- Bahía Inglesa – a picturesque and lovely yet windy beach about 20 minutes away by collectivo (1,000 pesos) or hitchhiking
- Rocas Negras – walking south from Bahía Inglesa along the beach, you will encounter this rock formation after about 3 km
- Parque Paleontológico Los Dedos – beyond Rocas Negras and in the hot middle of nowhere about 1 km from the beach, an outdoor museum for fossils