If you search photos of Arica, or arrive blind into the city center, you will become familiar with El Morro, the massive cliff of compressed sand and rock that guards the southern tip of the city. A strategic military point in the battle for Arica, between the Bolivians, Peruvians and Chileans, El Morros ‘cherry on top’ is an enormous Chilean flag blowing in the constant ocean breeze.
Not many people will argue that the Cuevas de Anzota, are the most naturally beautiful attraction in Arica. A thoroughly enjoyable 12 km road that slims down into a walking path, will lead you, within a stone’s throw of the ocean, the whole way to the entrance to the caves. As it should be, being a work of mother nature, there is no gate, no guards, no entry cost, only a few plaques explaining some of the animal life you will find, and some stairs chiseled out of the rock to make the caves accessible. If you’re strapped for time, you can drive down, but it is recommended to rent some bikes and enjoy the journey getting there.
Set back off the ocean, along a sandy ridge that looks ready to split down the center of Arica, you will find another viewpoint that will give you a different perspective of Arica, from a different height and angle. Standing under a large statue, you can get a view of El Morro to your left, the city in front of you, and the stretching coastline all the way up to near the border of Peru.
If you have spent some time in Bolivia or Peru, chances are you are looking forward to, as previously mentioned, the extensive and gleaming coast of Chile. Arica gives you an appetizer with a number of beaches to choose from. Enjoy Playa Chinchorro if you want space and close proximity to the city center, La Lisera if you want something a little out of town, and La Liserilla if you are an ‘it’s about the journey, not the destination’ type of person, as you will be able to view the Cuevas de Anzota and take the path around to this secluded cove beach.
Get to know the center of Arica by stepping out at the McDonalds in the center, and walking up the pedestrian-only street that leads away from the beach. Narrow alleys off to each side hide beautiful quaint cafés, restaurants and bars, and people selling jewelry, bracelets and sunglasses. The main strip is a good place to do some shopping, see some street entertainment, find a reliable ATM and have a drink at Di Mango restaurant, as the sun sets on another day in the golden city.
With a refreshing, and constant breeze around Arica, it’s only the humid summer days that you will be dying to jump into the ocean, but regardless of the time of year you are visiting, you should be getting into the Chilean Pacific. There are various waves for varying degrees of expertise, and perfect beach breaks to take your first delve into ‘hanging ten’, or simply get a body board and throw yourself into some waves.