Calama

Calama is in the region of Antofagasta in northern Chile.

Get in

By bus

There are frequent bus connections to Antofagasta (2 hours). There are also frequent overnight buses arriving from Iquique...arriving normally in the early morning hours. 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.

By train

If the nearby salt plains appeal, take the 3 or 4 day train ride to Bolivia (bring warm clothes!). The amazing train is essentially a cargo train that carries a handful of Bolivian peasants between the coast and the altiplano, but it provides an incredible vista.

The train to Bolivia used to run 2 times a week.

As of June 2009, the train service stopped running to Ollague. However, there are bus services to Ollague (the Chilean-Bolivian border) for around 4,000 Pesos. Try the bus service 'Frontera Norte'

Edited info: This train service has stopped. There are no trains from Bolivia to Calama Chile. The FCA website takes you to train service from Lima to Huamcayo in Peru.

Get around

Calama is not large and most of the city centre can be covered on foot. Collectivos (shared taxis) run fixed routes and cost Ch$500, while buses, named with letters of the alphabet, cost about Ch$300.

See

Get a taxi in the city centre to Chuquicamata. It is an enormous mine open to the sky. There is a free tour to the mine, its worth visiting.

To see the mine you should first sign up at the local municipal tourism office. It's located a few blocks from the main plaza on Calle La Torre between Calle Vicuna Mckenna and Pedro Leon Gallo (more towards Mckenna and on your left hand side as you walk from the plaza). It's in a small building on a market-lined street so pay close attention or you'll walk right by it. They'll take your name and information and direct you to the taxi/collectivo stand that can take you to the mine as of 12:30PM. The cost of the collectivo is 1500 CLP each way. The tour starts when a bus picks you up near the fire station and ends about 60–90 minutes later. The collectivo is waiting for you at Chuqui when the tour ends. The tour itself is free but you will be asked for a voluntary donation for the children's fund.

Panoramic view of Chuquicamata Mine as seen from the Mirador

Chuquicamata is the world's largest open-pit copper mine, along with its associated abandoned mining town, and is located outside of Calama in the Antofagasta region of Chile.

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 visitas@codelco.cl or through telephone at +56 55 322122. Tours run for about two hours.

The tour departs from the 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. Both the ghost town and the mining facility can only be visited on guided tour.

The tour run by Codelco Norte is conducted simultaneously in both 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.

Do

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 there, but be warned, all the movies are in Spanish.

Rent a 4x4 truck and go see Chiu-Chiu, Lasana, and the geysers de Tatio. For around 40,000 pesos, you can rent a 4x4 truck. Chiu-Chiu is about 35 km North-East of Calama. There are interesting ruins, a lagoon, and some old churches. Lasana is a beautiful canyon winding through the desert. It's green and really different. Then, a several hour drive across the salt flats and through some VERY rugged roads brings you to the Geysers of Tatio. If you camp on the NORTH side of the geysers, and come down in the morning, you can get in for free (otherwise around 16,000 for a truck and four people). The geysers are at about 4,200 meters, and you hit abou 4,700 meters coming in from the north. In May it was VERY cold (our water bottles froze that night solid). A very cool experience.

Sleep

Go next

San Pedro de Atacama is two hours away by bus.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, February 04, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.