* We visited Iquique April 10-11, 2015 and Arica April 11-13, 2015
We had a lot of ground to cover in Chile to get to our next stop in Peru, and a few days to kill, so we came up with a plan: travel to Iquique to spend one day in Iquique trying to paraglide, and then travel to Arica for at least one full day of rest and relaxation beach time.
Iquique was a surprisingly big town, set at the base of towering cliffs that give way to a higher Chilean desert plateau. It gave off a mildly sad vibe, its glory days seemingly having been in the past, and some small industries (not so much tourism) keeping it afloat. On the tourist end of things, however, it did seem to provide ample opportunities for a small community of surfers and paragliders to do their thing. The towering cliffs above town and coastal wind conditions combine to make Iquique a well known place for paragliding. Lindsey and I aren’t so much into hanging ten, so we went with the paragliding, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. It was AWESOME! We tandem paraglided (each of us with a professional) for about 20 minutes or so, towering above the city and even the above the cliffs we jumped off of by taking updrafts higher into the sky. If you’re interested, you should check out the GoPro videos we put up on YouTube (embedded below). They drag on a little so if you start getting bored, fast forward to the 2:35 mark of my video and the 3:25 mark of Lindsey’s when our instructors throw us in a crazy g-force spiral before landing on the beach. I definitely had to sit on the sand for a few minutes after to make sure I wasn’t going to lose my lunch.
In Arica, we were hoping for a bustling backpacker beach vibe. There certainly were a number of locals hanging out at the beach with their families, but not really any fellow backpacker travelers. About a 10-15 minute walk down the beach in either direction from our hostel led to small shanty town/tent homes on the beach, which were a little depressing and kept us from wanting to spend all that much time at the beach. Instead, we ventured into town to see some pretty cool Chinchorro mummies which date back an astounding 3000-5000 years, having been well-preserved by the sand protection and dry desert conditions. Their burial mound was found in the middle of town during excavation for someone who wanted to rebuild their home, and the museum left the mummies pretty much as they were found and put a clear glass floor over them for viewing. Overall, the town felt a little livelier than Iquique, but still also had that feel of having seen better days. As a result, we spent most our time in our hostel-like place just uphill from the beach. We were the only guests so it felt more like we had an apartment with a balcony beach view to ourselves, although each night there there were a few minutes of moans and groans from a couple getting all too loudly intimate too close to our window. We spent our down time planning out more of the Asia leg of our travels, and took in a couple beautiful sunsets before bussing into Peru.