If archaeological zones, landscaped plazas and well, giant hands, are your travel cup of tea then look no further than Antofagasta. Set between the Pacific Ocean and the mountains, the city is Chile’s second most populated place, and by far the largest in the northern region. Once the country’s primary export port, notably for minerals including nitrate and later, silver, today Antofagasta is still the country’s centre for mineral mining.
Antofagasta was once part of Bolivia, and only became Chilean in 1904 after it was captured in the War of the Pacific. Under the subsequent treaty, Chile agreed to construct a rail link to Bolivia in return for the city. Today the city still enjoys relative stress free travel to La Paz, through some of the most scenic and spectacular landscapes in the world. The railway link, which extended south as well as north, naturally brought colossal growth, expansion which is still continuing today. In recent years, Antofagasta has seen high rise hotels and buildings sprout up amid the jumble of old-fashioned plazas, former Railway Stations, and wooden-fronted Victorian and Georgian buildings that can be found along the Barrio Histórico.
The city borders the arid Atacama Desert, aka the world’s driest place. As if the lunar like landscape was not enough, the aforementioned “Hand of the Desert”, an 11-metre tall sculpture of a hand reaching up to the stars is located about 60 km from Antofagasta, and is surely a must for anyone who is interested in alien experiences.