Day 5 - Arica (Chile)



Balmy beaches and late-night discos beckon pleasure seekers to this Atacama Desert oasis. Inland there are tiny mountain villages with ruins of ancient cultures. The area is home to many endemic animal species including vicuña, alpaca, ñandu and wild chinchilla. 

Arica’s location along the Azapa valley and the only port in the desert area, made it an ideal area for early settlement by indigenous Indians. Arica was officially founded in 1565. After the discovery of a rich silver mine in 1545 at Potosi, Arica’s port played an important role in the shipping and supplies for the mine. However, many of the city’s residents moved to the mountainous regions due to an outbreak of Malaria. In 1570, the Spanish King granted Arica the status of a city. During the 1880’s, the Chilean Army defended the territory against an invasion by Peruvian troops. The Chilean troops ultimately prevailed. In 1913 the railway to La Paz was introduced, turning Arica once more into the main seaport serving Bolivia. Arica is Chile’s fifth oldest city with 160,000 inhabitants.



San Marcos Church
One of the most important sites in Arica, the church of San Marcos was inaugurated in 1876 and offers a splendid view of the harbor. The church is located at the base of the El Morro cliffs. This unique building was designed by famed French architect Gustave Eiffel, and except for the wooden doors, is constructed entirely of metal. It replaced an earlier structure built in 1640 that was swept into the sea by a tidal wave. The most famous spot is El Morro itself, situated on a high bluff overlooking the sea. A small museum with war memorabilia is in a plaza atop the hill, and offers panoramic views of the port, the town, the green Azapa Valley, and the coast, extending to the Peruvian border.  

Arms Museum
The museum was erected on the site of an old fortress where Chilean troops first occupied during the war of the Pacific. The museum offers insight to the bloody battle that took place here on June 7th, 1880 between the Chilean and Peruvians troops. Several of the original large weapons and guns used in the conflict can still be found on the grounds today.  

Arica Putre Mountain View

Azapa Valley
Seen in the distance from the Azapa Valley are several petroglyphs which are the unique drawings of human and animal forms created by Indians scratching the salty surface of the brightly colored rocks. In the Azapa Valley you will also find the San Miguel de Azapa Archaeological Museum which contains a collection of items from pre-Inca civilizations dating to 5000 BC: some of the world’s oldest mummies (Chinchorro mummies) and a collection of Andean woven fabrics, baskets and pottery.  


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