Northern Chile

The Northern region of Chile is among the driest regions in the world.


Coquimbo's plaza

Other destinations


Northern Chile has been thriving on the mining industry since the middle of the 19th century. It started with saltpetre which came to an abrupt end at the beginning of the 20th century when the synthetic production of nitrates was invented. The remains of the old production sites are still impressive and provide an insight into the hard life of the workers. Nowadays copper has taken over the role of Chile's main export good and is mined in giant open pits. Furthermore some minerals like lithium are produced in the salt lakes.

Many visitors come to see the spectacular landscape of the Andean Highlands. Snow-covered mountains more than 6000 m high contrasting with blue lakes, mountains showing all shades of red and brown due to their volcanic origin, and a number of geothermal areas with hot springs and geysers are among the natural attractions of the region.

On the more relaxing side, Arica and Iquique offer long sandy beaches at the Pacific coast.

Get in

Get around

The highways outside of the highlands are generally in good condition as are the main highways through the highlands to the neighbouring countries. Other roads in the highlands can be very rough. Before moving along such roads individually it is best to enquire locally about road and weather conditions.

Buses connect all cities and also provide connections to neighbouring countries. There are no longer any passenger trains in Northern Chile.


A 360 degree panorama of a unique cloudscape over La Silla

Stay safe

Be aware that you can easily get up to more than 4000 m of altitude on normal roads. Get accustomed to this by getting higher in reasonable steps. If you join one of those one-day excursions from Arica to Lauca National Park then you are very likely to suffer from mountain sickness which must be taken seriously.

In the mountainous areas mobile phone coverage is usually limited to the vicinity of towns. If you set out on a track road other than one which connects towns or popular tourist attractions then it might be a good idea to take a satellite phone with you. Filling stations are rare so make sure you know your options.

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This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Friday, April 24, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.