Destination guide: Antofagasta, Chile
The city of Antofagasta is in the extreme north of Chile, on a strip of land by the sea and next to the arid desert and the coastal mountain range, which creates beautiful scenery that is rarely seen in big cities.
One of the icons that most represents Antofagasta is La Portada, a natural monument in the shape of an arch and the Hand of the Desert, a sculpture of a hand emerging from the depths of the earth.
Chile’s second-largest city is a rough-and-ready jumble of one-way streets, modern mall culture and work-wearied urbanites. ravelers, who often choose to leapfrog over Antofagasta en route north to San Pedro de Atacama or south to Copiapó.
However, the city is not all high-rise concrete and gridlocked streets. The old-fashioned plaza is a pleasure to kick back in, and evidence of the golden nitrate era can be found in the wooden-fronted Victorian and Georgian buildings of the coastal Barrio Histórico. Trains still shunt and shake their way along the seafront and ancient spindly muelles (piers) molder picturesquely along the grubby guano-stained port.
The port here handles most of the minerals from the Atacama, especially the copper from Chuquicamata, and is still a major import-export node for Bolivia, which lost the region to Chile during the War of the Pacific.
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