Stepping into the past in northern Chile

When we decided on Iquique for our second anniversary trip, I was looking forward to good weather and the beach. I wasn’t particularly excited about the city itself, to be honest, expecting a combination of slightly run-down areas downtown and new high-rise buildings on the coast. And that’s exactly what I got. But I also got some beautiful historical architecture and a city center that pleasantly surprised me.

Baquedano, Iquique

Chilean cities tend to all be laid out around a main plaza. At some point, I became one of those people who thinks the Purén Plaza de Armas and the Curicó plaza qualify as tourist attractions. New town? Let’s go check out the plaza! But as it turns out, Plaza Prat in Iquique is actually very well-maintained and worth a wander.

Plaza Prat

On one side, the Teatro Municipal hosted a photography exhibit showcasing festivals and landscapes from the surrounding small towns. I don’t think Broadway has anything to fear from this theater, but it’s nice to see a legacy of culture maintained. And I now want to roadtrip through northern Chile to attend random religious festivals that looked so colorful in the photos.

Teatro Municipal Iquique

The pedestrian street Baquedano borders the plaza, and I immediately fell in love. From the late 1800s through early 1900s, the nearby saltpeter mines and shipping industry brought both foreigners and plenty of money to town. Can’t you just imagine society ladies decked out in the latest fashions taking these trolleys up and down the street rather than deigning to walk?

Baquedano trolley

For those of us peasants who do walk, the cobblestone streets and wooden sidewalks make for a lovely stroll, especially on the kind of perfect day Rodolfo and I had for discovering Iquique. We wandered a few blocks, appreciating that while the buildings and infrastructure retained their old fashioned charm – and you know it really must have been something for me to refer to a sidewalk of all things as “charming” – modern life was apparent in the restaurants and shops lining the boulevard. While sitting on a bench in the plaza itself sounded inviting, sitting with a drink in hand along Baquedano’s pedestrian promenade sounded even more so.

Iquique house

But we had places to be! With only two days in the city of Iquique, we couldn’t be tempted to laze away half of our first afternoon. Luckily, our hotel was only steps away from Plaza Prat, so we were able to revisit Iquique’s historical neighborhood just in time for a sunset stroll.

More in this series:
A weekend in Iquique
I’m on a boat!
The perfect Chilean beach
The problem with hotels in Iquique

14 Responses to “Stepping into the past in northern Chile”

  1. Emma says:

    Beautiful! The light looks gorgeous there too. I never made that far north, and not to the northern coast. Can’t wait to hear/see more!

    • Emily says:

      It was all just so pretty! It’s the farthest north I’ve ever been too. The past couple years we’ve been heading south, but now I feel like I need to spend more time up north as well.

  2. Jenn says:

    Great pics! We’ve been wanting to check this town out, and it sounds like a weekend is really all you need. Better keep my eye out on airfare!

    • Emily says:

      I would have liked to go to Humberstone as well, which we could have fit in to a regular weekend if not for wanting to spend the entire day Sunday at the beach. So yes, you can definitely do it in a weekend, but if you want beach time, I’d say there’s easily enough to fill 3 days.

  3. I like the idea of strolling down those cobblestone streets. I’m always drawn to the town squares, too (although haven’t been to Chile yet). Iquique looks like a lovely town.

  4. Abby says:

    A religion festival road trip sounds amazing! You’re so funny.

    • Emily says:

      Haha, you mean just because it’s possibly the most random road trip idea ever? Trust me, I would never have thought of it if these photos hadn’t been so captivating.

  5. Andrea says:

    What a charming find! The weather looks like it was perfect – just right for wandering =)

  6. Kyle says:

    WOW. Ok, so first I was surprised when you told me about how nicely preserved the city was…but I still wasn’t imagining it to look like this! Now I’m just amazed. I didn’t think there were cities in Chile that looked like this. I want to go!

    • Emily says:

      It’s seriously gorgeous, right?! Granted the rest of the city looks more modern and normal, but Baquedano goes for quite a few blocks, and the whole way down it looks like this.

  7. Justin says:

    I spent two years in the north of Chile, 4 months of which I was in Pozo Almonte, Humberstone is about 5 miles from Pozo, I went there several times, reminded me of the ghost towns in Arizona and New Mexico.

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