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Calama

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Calama is in the region of Antofagasta in northern Chile.

Get in[edit]

By bus[edit]

There are frequent bus connections to Antofagasta (2 hours). There are also frequent overnight buses arriving from Iquique...arriving normally in the early morning hours. The bus company will let you sleep on the bus for a few hours until morning so there is no need to book a hotel or hostel. Warning there frequent reports of bags being stolen in the bus station. It is a common occurrence. Thieves apparently use distractions, such as asking you to be part of a photo, whilst another steals your bags. Be extra vigilant and keep passport, valuables and credit cards in a money belt.

By train[edit]

There used to be a train to Bolivia, but it has stopped. You have to get in and out by road and air.

By Air[edit]

Calama's airport, Aeropuerto El Loa, is located just outside the city and serves numerous daily flights to Santiago, as well as flights to other Chilean cities in the north. Tourists from Santiago often fly to Calama, from which they travel to San Pedro by bus or rental car.

Get around[edit]

Calama is not large and most of the city centre can be covered on foot. Collectivos (shared taxis) run fixed routes and cost Ch$500, while buses, named with letters of the alphabet, cost about Ch$300.

See[edit][add listing]

Get a taxi in the city centre to Chuquicamata. It is an enormous mine open to the sky. There is a free tour to the mine, its worth visiting.

To see the mine you should first sign up at the local municipal tourism office. It's located a few blocks from the main plaza on Calle La Torre between Calle Vicuna Mckenna and Pedro Leon Gallo (more towards Mckenna and on your left hand side as you walk from the plaza). It's in a small building on a market-lined street so pay close attention or you'll walk right by it. They'll take your name and information and direct you to the taxi/collectivo stand that can take you to the mine as of 13:15 PM. The cost of the collectivo is 1500 CLP each way. The tour starts when a bus picks you up near the fire station and ends about 60-90 minutes later. The collectivo is waiting for you at Chuqui when the tour ends. The tour itself is free but you will be asked for a voluntary donation for the children's fund.

Do[edit][add listing]

There's a small amusement park for children off the main square in town.

And you can go to the mall. There's a movie theater there, but be warned, all the movies are in Spanish.

Rent a 4x4 truck and go see Chiu-Chiu, Lasana, and the geysers de Tatio. For around 40,000 pesos, you can rent a 4x4 truck. Chiu-Chiu is about 35km North-East of Calama. There are intresting ruins, a lagoon, and some old churches. Lasana is a beautiful canyon winding through the desert. It's green and really different. Then, a several hour drive across the salt flats and through some VERY rugged roads brings you to the Geysers of Tatio. If you camp on the NORTH side of the geysers, and come down in the morning, you can get in for free (otherwise around 16,000 for a truck and four people). The geysers are at about 4,200 meters, and you hit abou 4,700 meters coming in from the north. In May it was VERY cold (our water bottles froze that night solid). A very cool experience.

Buy[edit][add listing]

Calama is the best place to stock up on essentials before heading into the Atacama. While there are small supermarkets in San Pedro de Atacama, there are better prices and a wider selection here.

  • Jumbo, Avenida Chorrillos 1759 (near Mall Plaza). open late. A huge food, electronics and clothing store, with a great mix of domestic and foreign products. Hundreds of bottles of wine are available.  edit

Eat[edit][add listing]

  • Empanadas Florencia, 5 Norte 1387-A. In a country filled with overfilled but under-seasoned carne empanadas, this place offers more than two dozen mouthwatering varieties, including shrimp, fish, chicken and vegetable options. Expect to pay between Ch$1,500 and Ch$3,000 for an empanada, and for two to be a hearty meal. Lines form during meal times.  edit
  • Restaurant Tradiciones Peruanas, Av. Chorrillos. Open til 11 pm. A mix of Peruvian and Chilean dishes, including chufa rice, lomo saltado and steaks. Most dining is in semi-covered patio. The only alcohol served is piscos. Ch$6,000 to Ch$15,000 mains.  edit
  • Pollo Scout. Wonderful roast chicken available to go or for dine-in a charming if slightly dated room. Steak is also available. Ch$5,000 for a full chicken, meals from around the same.  edit

Drink[edit][add listing]

Stay Safe[edit]

Be vigilant about your stuff and never lose sight of any of your bags in public places like the bus station (for instance, waiting for a connection). The thieves work in groups and usually one will try to distract you while another grabs the bag when you've turned around.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

  • Hostal Nativo, Sotomayor 2215 (at junction with Granaderos, close to the city centre and bus terminals), +56 55 310377 (), [1]. checkout: noon. Clean rooms with hot shower available. Wi-fi is available in both the lobby and the rooms. Ch$20,000/25,000 for a single room with/without bathroom, Ch$23,000 for a double room with bathroom, Ch$30,000 for a triple room, Ch$2,500 for parking.  edit
  • Hotel Aymara, Abapoa 2120 A. Nice hotel near the city centre. Big room, clean shower and toilet, TV, wifi. Price includes breakfast. 30,000.  edit
  • Gran Chile Hostel, La Torre 1474 (Three blocks south of the pedestrian street), 55 317455. 13.000/26.000 for a single/double with bathroom. Free internet. Clean, quiet.  edit
  • Park Hotel Calama, Camino Aero Puerto 1392 (Close to the airport), [2]. Four star hotel with two onsite restaurants, spa, pool and weight room and overall nice facilities. Free welcome pisco provided. Seafood buffet available on weekends for Ch$19,500. Great walk-in deals available for 40,000 pesos on the weekends and Ch$60,000 on weeknights. Rack rate around Ch$100,000.  edit

Get out[edit]

San Pedro de Atacama is two hours away by bus.

The airport is a few miles south of the city. You can call for an airport shuttle to pick you up at 98162091 for Ch$3.000. An ordinary taxi is said to cost Ch$6.000. You can also consider to take a collective to the southern suburb, and walk or hitch hike the last km to the airport.

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