With its mild climate, water - a rarity in the Atacama desert - from Río Lluta supporting vegetation, Arica was an inhabited area from at least 6000 BC. The area was inhabited by native tribes, who grew corn, squash and cotton, made pottery and were later part of the Tihuanaco culture of Bolivia and the Inca Empire which extended as far north as Quito, Ecuador.
Gradually, the native culture rose and developed its own art forms and cultural traditions. In Aymara, the word Arica means new opening, which is significant on various levels. Later on, Don Diego de Almagro's expeditionary force came through on its arduous year-long trek to what is now Santiago, the capital of Chile.
Once part of Bolivia, and Bolivia's access to the sea to export silver from the mines in Potosí, Arica became Chilean territory in the War of the Pacific, whose naval victories are celebrated annually as the Glorias Navales. Arica still functions as Bolivia's access to the sea, connected to Bolivia by train.
Now, Arica is a developing seaside resort, with golden sand dunes, miles of seashore, duty-free shopping and lively nightlife. Arica is also the gateway to inland ruins of ancient cultures, Lauca National Park with its many animal species including vicuña, alpaca, nandu and wild chinchilla, volcanos and the highest mountain lake in the world.
- Aereopuerto Chacalluta, north of the city, handles domestic flights from Santiago and other Chilean cities, plus international flights to and from Peru and Bolivia.
- The PanAmerican Highway connects Arica to Peru and other Chilean cities.
- Bus service, either domestic, or international to and from Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina is available.
- Train service to Peru via Tacna, (see ENAFER Tacna - Arica/Chile line) and to La Paz, Bolivia is available. The train to La Paz offers limited seating, and it's best to make reservations the week ahead during the summer months.
- Taxis and car rental.
- In addition to being a commercial port, Arica is also a port-of-call for many cruise ships who offer day-trip excursions inland as well as city tours.
- Private sailboats and yachts berth at the marina.
When to Go
Please read the next page for things to do and see.