To the north of Arica are several bathing and surfing beaches. The two-kilometer-long El Chinchorro is the best place to catch a wave or to take a dip. Along the waterfront boardwalk, families ride rented tandem bicycles. An old pier juts out across the platinum-blue sea and, though a sign warns to stay off, many sneak in to drop a fishing line. Playa Chinchorro has restaurants, hotels and a surfing shop.
The road heads north to Las Machas Beach. Berthed against the taupe-colored sands is the USS Wateree, a Civil War-era ship that formed part of the USâ€™ South Pacific fleet. The August 13, 1868, tsunami washed it three kilometers (1.8 miles) inland. Since it was still intact, it served as a hospital and later as a first-class hotel. The 1877 tidal wave ripped it apart and hauled it closer to the ocean. Its fate, then, was to be used for target practice during the Guerra del PacĂfico, before being dismantled. Today, only the boilers remain. Playa Las Machas is a broad, unshaded beach. The sea is much stronger. Free camping is allowed at the site across from the carabineros base.
A half-hour walk further north leads to the Desembocadura de Lluta, or the mouth of the Lluta River. This estuary is a protected area conserving an important biodiversity zone in Northern Chile. It is a birdwatchers paradise, with North American birds resting here on their yearly migrations and many resident sea and shore birds, including gulls, plovers, herons, ducks and coots.
Take a collective taxi with a green â€śUâ€ť sign from Calle Lynch ($1) or a number 12 or 14 minibus from 18 de Septiembre ($0.70) to Chinchorro. Some bay boat tours go to these beaches.
Travel Tips: Be aware of the waters. Do not swim at Las Machas. A family provides bath services at the Las Machas campsite ($0.25) and have a small shop.
Travel Skills: None
You Need to Bring: Take along water, snacks and protection against the sun. If you plan to camp, bring plenty of water and food.
Visit the several museums of Arica; journey through Valle de Azapa and Valle de Lluta; practice surfing, bodyboarding, paragliding or other adventure sport; hang out at the beaches; take a launch tour of the bay; go birdwatching.
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