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Things move at a slow pace in Chile's northernmost city, just 20km from the Peruvian border. Best described as a city-cum-beach-resort, Arica enjoys summery weather year-round. It is also blessed with warm sea currents and exhilarating surfing breaks. However, there's plenty here for landlubbers too: an iron church, a dramatically situated battleground and some of the world's oldest known mummies, just to name a few. Arica is also a common jumping-off point for trips up to the heady heights of Parque Nacional Lauca.
Barefoot surfers, paragliding pros, casino snobs and frenzied merchants all cross paths in the rather disarming city of Iquique. Lots of effort is being made to turn this into Chile's premier beach resort; they've already got the glitzy casino, a large mall, and a pleasant boardwalk that borders excellent beaches. Refurbished Georgian-style architecture from the 19th-century mining boom is well preserved, and a pedestrianized street, Baquedano, sports charming wooden sidewalks. Iquique's main claim, however, is its duty-free status, with a chaotic duty-free shopping zone (zona franca), which uses the ominous sandy hills behind the town as an outlandish nighttime billboard.The city, 1853km north of Santiago and 315km south of Arica, is squeezed between the ocean and the desolate brown coastal range rising abruptly beh...
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