Arica is Chile’s northernmost city and the capital of the Region of Arica and Parinacota. Its 240,000 inhabitants make up almost 98% of the region’s population. With an average temperature of 18 degrees Celsius Arica is known as the “city of eternal spring”. Although it is within the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places in the world, and several years can pass before it rains in the city, a fertile river valley dissects it. Fruit and vegetables are produced there and Arica is famous for its olives. Arica’s port had been important for the Spanish Empire since 1545 when silver was brought down to the coast from Potosi (Bolivia) –this attracted English and Dutch pirates which looted Arica on several occasions. Today the port serves as a free port for goods from landlocked Bolivia.
Arica belonged to Peru until 1880, when Chilean troops took the “El Morro” hill above the port during the War of the Pacific. It is possible to walk up to the giant flagpole and small military museum on the hill, from where there are excellent views across the city, port and valley. Attractions in or near Arica include the Museum of Azapa dedicated to the Chinchorro culture with the oldest mummies in the world going back 7,ooo years, several beaches and three buildings said to have been designed by Eiffel.