A Photoessay for Arica

13-IMG_6853 Sandwiched between the sands of the Atacama Desert and the Pacific Ocean, Arica can best be described as a desert city with a beach. Though it sits at the nexus of two fertile valleys fed by the Lluta and summer-running Azapa rivers, they do little to quell the sweltering desert heat. For most people, Arica is a stopover while travelling from Peru to Chile, especially to Iquique in the south or the Atacama Desert in the east. But the town has its own beauty.

A view of the city from the south looking northward


People walk back from the beach in the midday heat

Five nearby rivers act as water sources for Arica, enabling plants to flourish in spite of the heat. Palm trees and grassy parks line the city’s main streets, giving it an oasis-in-the-desert feeling.

People meet in a plaza in the afternoon


A grave on the side of the road just outside of Arica

Shipping and transport are major activities in the city, with the city acting as both a maritime port and a stop for freight trucks from Bolivia and Peru.

Shipping containers in Arica’s port


Ships moored in Arica’s port


A stray cat eats scraps at a nearby fish market

When we visited the main thoroughfare, we noticed a group with speakers and microphones outside of the grocery store. They were calling for donations of food and water for the region of Maule, which had recently been devastated by forest fires.


People fundraise for victims of intense fires in the Maule region

The city’s largest landmark is El Morro, a massive sandstone cliff to the south of the city. The top of the cliff is home to monuments to the Chilean (republic?), a museum, and a massive bronze statue of Jesus. It also offers sweeping views of the ocean and the city, and a chance to see scores of turkey vultures soaring on thermals or resting on steep rocky ledges below.

El Morro rising above the city


The Cristo de la Concordia atop El Morro

A turkey vulture rests on an outcrop at El Morro

The shimmering ocean and desert haze combine to make some of the most stunning ocean sunsets imaginable. Climb to the top of El Moro in the lengthening shadows, after the heat of the day has passed, and enjoy the view from the top.

A view of sunset from El Morro

Sure, Arica isn’t a standard tourist destination. There aren’t any brand name hotels, and no specific must-see attractions. But it’s a place worth visiting if you’re not into running with the tourist hordes and just want to relax.

Sunset over the beaches to the south of Arica

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