Skip to Content

Warming up to the Iquique coastline in Northern Chile

Last Updated on February 12, 2014

Question: The more you travel, do you start to compare every new place with somewhere you’ve been before?

We do this constantly now and not only the general feeling of a place, but even specific corners, streets and neighborhoods, too.

iquique playa cavanchaIt took us quite a while to warm up to Iquique, a city in Northern Chile, but right from the start those comparisons began. The unfinished cement skyscrapers along the coast reminded us of Panama City, Panama – a city we could really only warm to parts of.
iquique at sunsetAs we explored the Centro Historico, the clapboard houses spread among the more grand Spanish colonial architecture reminded us of Belize.
iquique baquedanoiquique tramsiquique baquedano towerAnd yet, by our last couple of days strolling along the coastal boardwalk under the palm trees down near Playa Canvancha, I couldn’t help but giggle when I said to Dani in all seriousness, ‘Iquique does have a bit of a Miami vibe, though, doesn’t it.’

iquique beach promenadeNo, it really doesn’t.

But there is a certain charm that took a while for us to appreciate. This was partially due to those damn expectations that get built up by reading articles, guidebooks and blog posts about the destinations we visit. The city is lauded by some as both a surfers and a paragliders paradise, so we were expecting a Southern California feel.
iquique surfersWe had come here for an extra extended beach weekend, knowing it would be months in the Andes before we would have that again. In reality, the waves are massive and crash with dangerous intensity right on the shore, which meant we only dipped our toes in.
iquique daniParagliding is definitely another thing to do in Iquique, and it’s fun to watch people do it right down near the shore. But like most Latin American towns and cities, there are jumbles of electric wires stretching along the streets, and getting tangled in an electric cable salad was not a risk we wanted to take.

iquique paragliders at sunset chileInstead we spent our days walking up and down the long, coastal boulevard and touring the historic center, the Baquedano, to get a feeling for the city. A highlight was walking past the fish market and watching feeding time for the sea lions, pelicans and other sea life fighting for the bucket of guts the fishmongers would toss out to them.
iquique sea lion and pelicansiquique pelican chileiquique sea lionsFurther south is Playa Cavancha, which is technically where most of the beach action takes place, and where you’ll find the surfers. On a Saturday, we just kept on walking, further and further south, all the way to our hotel. A few surfers and way more long-boarders and roller bladers mingled on the boardwalk (literally made of wooden boards) along with families, ice cream vendors and groups of Chilean tourists.
iquique beach promenade chileThe waves crashed to our right and traffic ebbed and flowed to the left for the hour it took to return to our ‘hood, Playa Brava. Our hotel was a ten minute cab ride from the center, but we discovered that down on Playa Brava, we actually had three top restaurants, the best cafe and the most laid-back area of the beach nearby.
iquique cafe at sunsetWe ate overpriced but amazing sushi at Otaku Sushi, had seriously authentic Italian food next door at Trattoria Machiavelo and had strong, strong coffee at Ciocolatta every morning.

In addition to outdoor sports, from Iquique you can visit ghost towns of Humberstone and Santa Laura, which are former nitrate mining towns, and take a trip to the Atacama Giant geoglyphs, said to be the world’s largest rock art.

iquique beach chileThere is one thing that makes Iquique truly unique, where we couldn’t make any other comparisons. The city is a relative sliver, long and thin, set between the Pacific Ocean and a giant mountain of sand, almost like an oversized dune right behind it that looms over and gives it a sort of urgent, intense feel that is semi-smoothed over by the palm trees and sun reflecting off the ocean.

iquique jess at sunset chile
Our favorite eateries in Iquique: Otaku Sushi (Avenida Arturo Prat 3080), Trattoria Macchiavello (Avenida Arturo Prat 3082), Ciocolatta for coffee and cake (Avenida Arturo Prat 3078)
iquique coffee and kuchen[flickrslideshow acct_name=”globetrottergirls” id=”72157639879264813″]

Tags

Mr. Donut

Tuesday 15th of July 2014

I've been in Chile for 18 years, and I can say this: Iquique is not the place u want to be for more than a week. It has very high crime rates and most things are overpriced due to tourists and foreigners living in that City. A friend of mine from Australia got assaulted inside a car (the thief broke the window from the outside and took off with her purse). Most people doesn't speak English and are racists, e.g. saying racist comments to foreigners, including the police.

Mike from RTWFlyers

Sunday 2nd of February 2014

I swear every time I read your posts I have to add something else to our travel list. Once we get out of Chilean Patagonia we'll have to check out some of Chile's coastline. Some lovely comments here too.... Who knew people were so touchy about food?! Hopefully our paths will cross at some point in Chile! Happy travels!

Dani

Monday 3rd of February 2014

Thanks, Mike :) I hope you'll make it to some of Chile's beaches, there are several ones only a couple of hours from Santiago that are well worth spending a few lazy beach days at :D

Mónica

Saturday 1st of February 2014

Nice comments about my city :)

Just one correction: The biggest hill it's not made of sand.

Dani

Monday 3rd of February 2014

Thank you, Monica! :)

Gonzalo

Friday 31st of January 2014

Lei el reportaje y tienen toda la razón en muchos puntos, las pizzas de telepizza y las "grandes" marcas son todas igual, secas y si sabor (mejor dicho el mismo sabor, sin diferencia) pero si saben buscar encontraran buenos locales, sobre los completos exactamente lo mismo, sobre las sopaipillas nada que decir, una comida llena de grasa, es como comer aceite solido. Ojala vuelvan a iquique y pasen al restoran el asador, donde trabajo jajaja y comerán las mejores parrilas, aunque creo haber leido que son vegetarianas ajajaj..

Saludos y a mis compatriotas no enojen, cada quien tiene su opinion y son todas respetables.

Un saludo de un iquiqueño de corazon.

How to upset an entire nation: Why Chileans Think We SUCK! | GlobetrotterGirls Travel

Friday 31st of January 2014

[…] Bosque Nativo Eco-Hostel, Valdivia, Chile Polaroid of the Week: Sea Lion Attack in Valdivia Chile Warming up to the Iquique Coastline in Northern Chile Torres del Paine: Patagonia’s Essence in a Day And yet this one post is the only post that […]