Calama is all about copper. Not even the church, with its copper-gilded roof, can escape the precious metal鈥檚 influence in the town. At an altitude of 2,250m, Calama is generally used by backpackers as a stopover on the way to San Pedro de Atacama and as a residential area for the huge copper mine to the north of Chuquicamata. Calama also became an important stop on the Oruro-Antofagasta railroad in the late 1800鈥榮.
Although the town is primarily used as a place to collect oneself or withdraw money before a trip to San Pedro de Atacama - as there are no ATMs or banks over there - it does have a few highlights. The town sets off fireworks on March 23 to celebrate the return of Chilean troops from the War of the Pacific. Catedral San Juan Bautista鈥檚 roof gleams as it is comprised of ever-important copper. Parque El Loa offers pleasant strolls and is home to the Museo Arqueol贸gico and Etnol贸gico.
Another reason travelers tend not to spend too much time in Calama is because cheap accommodation can be scarce. Hotel Claris Loa and Hotel Atenas are two of the better low-budget places. Hotel Mirador, Hotel Punakora and the swanky Hoster铆a Calama cost much more. There is a nice selection of eateries in town. Caf茅 Viena has low prices and filling dishes, as do the coiner铆as in the Mercado Central. Bon Apetit and Caf茅 Caruso have good cups of coffee and Cactus Restaurant and Bar serves up hot dishes with Mexican themes.