Chilean governor Ambrosio Oâ€™Higgins founded Vallenar on January 5, 1789, and promptly named the town â€śVilla San Ambrosio de Vallenar,â€ť after the town in Ireland where he was born called Ballinagh. Vallenar is now the center of the mining and agricultural industry in the Huasco Province. The city is located near Ruta 5 Norte, and offers easy access to Parque Nacional Llanos de Challe, coastal areas Freirina and Huasco, as well as inner valley locations such as Alto del Carmen, Conay, San FĂ©lix and El TrĂˇnsito.
Vallenar also features the San Ambrosio, a church with a copper dome, and the Huasco Museum (corner of RamĂrez and Brasil, Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.). The museum houses mineralogical, archaeological, botanical, pale ontological, zoological and historical pieces. The most interesting exhibit is arguably a wooden torture instrument from colonial origins. Also worth seeing are also a set of bottles made of clay from regional Inca culture and a set of photo reproductions about the effect of the 1922 earthquake that rocked Vallenar.
Vallenar has several good accommodation options for travelers. Hotel Puerto de Vega (RamĂrez 201, Tel: 51-613870, URL: www.puertodevega.cl) is nicely designed in a European theme and is conveniently located near the bus terminal, though it is costly with rooms going from $50-70 per night. A better budget option is Residencial Oriental (Serrano 720, Tel: 51-613889) with its large, dark but clean rooms. A room without a private bathroom cost approximately $8. Or, head to Hostal Camino del Rey (Merced 943, Tel: 51-613184) for another budget option in the same ballpark cost-wise. II Bocatto, at Prat 750 located on the east side of the main square, offers pizzas and other quick meals for hungry stomachs. Arriero (Prat 1061) is a bit pricier than most fast-food options in Vallenar, but the steak makes it worth the extra money.
The tourism office is located on the main square at Plaza 30-A (Tel: 51-611009, URL: elhuascodeatacama.cl). There are no cambios to exchange money in Vallenar, however banks and ATMs are scattered around the plaza.
Population 44,000, Tel: 051.