The port city of Antofagasta is the capital of Antofagasta province and the second largest city in Chile, with a population of about 350,000. This city is jumbled with numerous one-way lanes, interspersed with Victorian and 21th Century structures and wearied dwellers; yet portrays a modern mall culture. Though the city is a major mining hub, the construction and tourism sectors are witnessing a hustle of activities. Antofagasta boasts the highest GDP per capita, within Chile.
Antofagasta is a busy city, located north of Santiago and has one of the best bus transportation systems in Chile resulting, in a majority of the population using the public transport service, on a regular basis. There are at least 13 lines of minibuses in the higher transportation segment, each able to ferry about 30 people. Public transportation is referred to as TransAntofagasta, and frequency of buses is very high in comparison to other neighbouring cities. Most of these routes end in Caleta Coloso (Southern end of city) except in summer months, when the routes extend to outside of the main town to Balneario Juan Lopez. Although other modes of transportation such as rental cars, taxi cabs and motorcycles may be availed, they are not as popular.
Top Sightseeing Places
Terminal Pesquerois filled with blueberry male sea lions that are sniffing at the frequenting pelicans orbiting the savor-emitting crowded fish market. The fish market is located besides the Port Authority in the northern side.
The refurbished Museo Regional de Antofagasto in the refurbished Customs House, previously known as Aduana hosts a two storey history museum that captures the prehistoric and cultural evolutions of Antofagasta, in a succinct manner. Some of the artefacts preserved include paraphernalia from the nitrate era, deformed skull of humans, and tin cans that are assembled as toys. Notable is the logistics centre for military operations of the Chilean Army, dating back to the Pacific war (1879 – 1883) against Peru.
The Torre Reloj resembles the Big Ben of London, albeit smaller and chimes similar to the Big Ben. Its body is interspersed with Chilean and British flags to show the British community’s imprint in Chile and their affiliation to Antofagasta. Landscaped areas with bougainvillea and palms adorn the fountains at the base of the tower and pigeons are a common sight at this site, which is home to the Plaza Colon.
Overlooking the city and south of the Argentina Avenue, one cannot escape the panoramic view around the 19th Century British-Bolivian silver refining plant. The Ruinas de Huanchaca can be accessed from the downtown by accessing Colectivo 3 and alighting at Minas de Plata or the Silver Mines stop. It is located south of the City Centre. Tourists should not miss the ornate Resguardo Maritimo building with chocolate-colored wooden railings built in early 1900s as the coast guard stares at the dilapidated Nitrate Pier (Muelle Salitrero).
Outside the city
Monumento Natural La Portada, this huge offshore arch in a sprawling acreage, resting above a volcanic base shows signs of weariness imposed by the turbulent Pacific Ocean. Tourists cannot afford to miss the Hand of the Desert, a hand emerging from the earth. Located on the westbound lateral branching off the highway, it can be reached by accessing micro 129 route from Antofagasta’s Terminal Pesquero to the La Portada intersection and board a minibus connection or by taking 3 km stroll, in the beautiful summer.
A Quiet Fishermen’s Village is located about 65 km to the North of Antofagasta, where fishing is the mainstream activity and tourists get to see and feel the bustling fishing operations and the overpopulated seals, amidst the petrels and pelicans. This romantic village hosts many marine architectures and a modern port is located in the Mejillones District. Tourists from all over, flock to glance the limpid beaches and the historic customs building, dating back to 1866.