Chuquicamata (pron. “choo-kee-kah-matta”) is the biggest copper mine on the face of Earth; it is located about 10 kilometres north of town, and can be visited on tours run by CODELCO (Chile’s copper company) Public Relations Department, which are a kind of promotion of the company’s business, but undoubtedly interesting.Its pit is 4500 metres long,...more
This city seems not to be poor, but there is nothing to see here and prices are very high, though the services have no specific quality !Don't even stay one night and go directly to San Pedro de Atacama...Cette ville n'a pas l'air d'etre pauvre, mais il n'y a vraiment rien a y voir et les prix sont tres eleves, malgre une qualite de service bien...more
11 Reviews and Opinions
Good food, cheap and tasty...
Bonne bouffe, pas chere...
Favorite Dish: Tablas surtidas, if there are some... Plates with grilles meals and vegetables...
Les "tablas surtidas", s'il y en a.. Assiettes de viandes et legumes grilles...
From Santiago to Calama with sky airways a pleasant 2 hours flight along the andes.Arriving at the airport you will follow your luguage on a very nice green tralor to the terminal.From the airport a direct minibus will take you to san pedro; no need to reserve in advance , there are various minibus waiting for you.more
Both LAN and SKY AIRLINE serve Calama with several daily flights, on an average price of US$ 190, although seasonal and last-minute offers can cut this price by 40% or more.Flights are either via Antofagasta (2:35 hours), or direct (2:05 hours). Oncoming flights from northern cities, such as Iquique and Arica, are quite cheap but their schedules...more
As said before, Calama is a bit out of the way... but from Santiago there are frequent bus services, both on the mornings (from 9 AM till 1130 AM), and then in the late afternoon, from 600 PM till 1000 PM, approximately.The trip from Santiago is 22 to 25 hours long, and can cost between US$ 22 and US$ 40 (double this price in the high...more
Any supermarket in Calama.
So, what makes it so special? Having prices far lower than in San Pedro, or having a much wider range than what you might find in Bolivia (provided you're heading to either place)
What to buy: If you’re going to San Pedro, stock up here of: drinking water, groceries (spaghetti, canned items, sugar, etc.), fuel for stoves (either gasoline or canned gas), toiletries and medications.
For videotape, films, batteries, and gas cans for camping stoves, go to the Calama Mall, 5 minutes north of the city centre by shared taxi or city bus, where there are several sporting goods stores (which also sell some selection of technical mountaineering clothing), while the many electronics and department stores will supply magnetic and digital media at (roughly) the same prices as in Santiago.
This is the same as for San Pedro: Calama’s nights are always cool in summer, but can be freezing cold in winter, with temperatures of –10ºC or below, so be prepared for this, especially in winter (April thru late October), and if you sleep in the outdoors.
Note that some people feels a little short of breath on arrival to Calama, due to its altitude (2288 meters/7505 ft.), especially when this is done by air from lower altitudes. Do not run or do heavy exercise on your first day there, and if you still feel uneasy, aspirin is an excellent treatment for light altitude sickness.
Air dryness is also evident, so drinking enough fluids is a must, and can help with altitude sickness as well.
Luggage and bags:
Internal frame backpack, backpack cover (to avoid soling of it while hitching), 30-litre daypack (enough to carry things and clothing needed for a full day out)
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Shorts, sandals, trekking boots, T-shirts, light long sleeved shirt and pants, light windbreak jacket, Sun hat (ideally w/ neck coverage), sunglasses, bathing suit.
In winter (April-October) add to those: gloves, balaclava, fleece jacket, warm socks.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: There’s of everything in Calama, and there are always some drug stores and other businesses open 24/7.
Anyway, if you have a favourite sunblock brand, bring it with you (it should be a high-factor one)
Photo Equipment: Slide film can be a bit difficult to find, or somewhat expensive, or there would be a limited choice. Print film is found anywhere, at reasonable prices. Black & white film is scarce and expensive, and so it is its processing (not done in Calama, anyway).
The landscape around Calama is quite good to be captured with long telephotos (don’t be afraid of bringing a 600), rather than wideangles, as the “emptyness” is way too big and featureless, without too many evident points of interest (but don’t forget your 20 mm.).
All brands and types of batteries can be found, but there’s no qualified service for highly-electronic or digital cameras, or for professional-type ones (take them to either Antofagasta or Santiago, instead).
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: See camping gear recommendations on my San Pedro de Atacama page.
Nevertheless, there’s a camping ground (operative in summer only) near Vado de Topater (around the Calama- San Pedro cloverleaf), and a Municipal Riverside Resort (kinda of) with a natural swimming pool on the Loa river.
Some 13 kilometres N of Calama, on the route to Chiu-Chiu, stands the Cruz del Paredon del Desierto (Desert’s Execution Place cross), which marks the very place where in 1981, two bank officials were murdered by being blown out to pieces by a pair of agents from the CNI (National Information Central, Pinochet’s secret police) who used their locally unbound power to make a bank robbery, by blaming the bank officials of their action.
All the truth was discovered some months later, and the criminals were tried en executed in 1982.
Relatives, friends and work mates of the two killed men erected a big cross to commemorate them, and make a pilgrimage to the site on March 9, every year, when is the anniversary of the murders.
The site itself is “in the middle of nowhere”, and no public transport reaches there, but there are signs marking the entrance to it, which is visible from the road.
At the base of the cross there’s a metal box with memorabilia and some remains of the bodies, that have been found scattered around through the years.
The site is impressive and very silent, with an almost permanent ghostly whistling of the wind on the cross’ structure.
Its GPS coordinates are S 22º 24’ 23,6” / W 68º 44’ 33,0” alt. 2517 metres.
See my Calama travelogue for other details