In the far north of Chile at the point where two verdant valleys meet the sea, lies Arica. The area's mild desert climate gives Arica a spring-like temperature all year round, and its location as the major port for Peru and Bolivia make for a fantastic cross-cultural experience for those who visit the city.
Arica is a city of contrasts – a bustling modern trade hub for three countries, which is also home to the world's oldest mummified remains. The surrounding region mirrors this contrast, as the arid outcrops and desert sands of the world's driest inhabited area sit less than a hundred miles from the placid lakes, lush plains and snow-capped mountains of Lauca National Park.
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The arid climate of the countryside surrounding Arica has allowed for ancient fabrics and artifacts to be left incredibly well-preserved, most notably the mummies and historic pieces which are now exhibited at the museum just outside the city. The Chinchorro mummies are some 6,000 years old, outdating the Inca people and even the mummies of ancient Egypt – and provide fascinating insights into ancient humanity, their beliefs and their practices.
El Morro de Arica
Enjoy incredible views of Arica, the sea and the surrounding countryside from the peak of El Morro, or The Nose, a gigantic rock which can also afford you views of the sea lions native to the area out in the bay. Atop the outcrop stands a statue of Christ, as well as war memorials commemorating the hill's prominence in history as a natural defensive position during battles in the area.
Cathedral of San Marcos de Arica
This picturesque red-and-white cathedral in Arica centre was built in the neo-Gothic style, using wrought-iron components designed by Gustave Eiffel. The interior is just as enchanting, with simple wooden pews complementing the ornate ironwork and bright, calm white space – a world away from the typical ornate nature of most Chilean and Peruvian churches. The cathedral was completed in 1876 and stands on the site of an older church in the city, despite being originally destined for the resort of Ancon.
Shopping in Arica
Those looking for the best shopping in Arica could do just as well to head to its outer reaches as much as its centre, where the replica of a traditional village sells art, pottery, musical instruments, murals and local crafts. The village is also filled with artists' studios, where you might be able to see ceramic busts and other artworks being produced as you take a look around
Eating out in Arica
There's a rich mix of restaurants and cafes in the city, ranging from bright, breezy places where you can try the local seafood, to cafés and take-outs where you can grab a quick bite before you continue your adventure. For fine dining, the city also boasts more stately restaurants where you can enjoy views of the sea, as well bars and eateries serving sushi, and Mediterranean fare as well as Peruvian cuisine.