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zaktim Iquique - A travel report by Tim
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Iquique,  Chile - flag Chile -  Tarapacá
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zaktim's travel reports

Freaky Iquique

  9 votes
Duty Free madness, reef breaks, breaking down the latina myth, and othet tales from the town that clings to the Pacific by the skin of its teeth (and a coating of Atacama dust).


Playa and Peninsula Cavancha from esplanada appartment. Choza Bambu in foreground centre.
Playa and Peninsula Cavancha from esplanada appartment. Choza Bambu in foreground centre.
Iquique, population approx. 200K, is the northernmost major trade port in Chile, the capital of the Región de Tarapacá: the sole Duty Free province in Chile. It´s a curious collection of blocky soviet-inspired housing, the occasional imposing western European edifices and a sprinkling of high rise condominiums...cover-ed perpetually in a sticky mixture of fish'smelling salt spray and dust blowing in over the Cordillera de la Costa. The last time it rained was in 1992, or was it 1998? - locals can discuss such historical markers for hours. It hugs the abrupt scarp of the cordillera along a narrow strip of low coastal land, in permament threat of complete devastation if an (even moderate) downpour washed down the literally millions of tonnes of unconsolidated sediment hanging precipitously on the slopes of the Cordillera. A crazy place that oozes a sentiment that even the locals would ideally be elsewhere, but which is criticsl to the lives of 3 major copper mines, a long established fishing industry plying the fertile waters of the Humboldt Current, a major military presence and of course the Zofri duty free market place; point of entry for all manner of imports from trinkets to trucks.

Favourite spots:
The Bambu Choza (a beach bar, that if it were anywhere else, would be packed every night for it´s superb setting, cruisy relaxed Argentine staff, and famous cocktails) The airport.

What's really great:
There´s little that would really attract you to Iquique...I work there, and spend most of my time at the Choza (see above), but the things that seem popular are: 1. the surf breaks on Playa Cavancha, which are notoriously dangerous for the hackly reefs that underly all the best breaks. 2. the beaches themselves, which swarm with Santigueño turistas in the summer...but which to my australian sensibilities seem flat and characterless, a bit dirtier than you´d like, at times dangerous, with poor dumping waves (except above mentionned reef breaks). 3. The shopping...everythin-g imaginable is available at the Zofri, and although rarely cheaper than elsewhere in the world, these are certainly the cheapest retailers for most things imported to Chile. Just walking around the labyrinthine mall complex is quite an adventure.

Sights:
The city by night from the main road E, up the escaprment.

The city by air, from paragliders that launch from the top of the escarpment.

Nightlife:
Kamikaze, Nitro. These are the only two clubs I´d recommend, but if you´re after teenage girls, head to Pharos. A word on that much talked about centerpiece of caucasian travel in S America: the Latina Beauty. Iquiqueña girls are NOT often invited to grace the covers of magazines, and (possibly fortunately) do not generally fall down hopelessly besotted at the sight of a White Boy. Clubbing in Iquique is, to be fair, limited. Go to Santiago.

Hangouts:
Choza Bambu, Playa Cavancha (Av. Arturo Prat e Amenátegui): very cool thatch-roofed place on the sand side of the esplanade, is very popular in summer but almost vacant in summer, and is your best bet for a laid back drink and casual meal, and every now and again, karaoke.

Bar Sovia, close to the centre of town, toward the coast from the main plaza on Calle Baquedano: multi-room, low lighting, almost stylish lounge-ish bar more akin to what 20-somthings in Australia see as good for a few drinks and a more inteligent pickup. I believe this is, like the Choza, a one-off in Iquique.

Restaurants:
El Vagón - seafood place with a strong following
Barracuda - likewise, with a funky interior and a decent bar as well.

Other recommendations:
There are some much nicer beaches, good for fishing, to the S near the airport. Ask the staff at the Choza, they know the area well...and a fishing trip´s just what you need after a long night at Kamikaze.

Published on Sunday July 18th, 2004


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