I was in the wild west crossed with a Miami sea front. That had a 1000ft sand wall behind it, which I jumped off.
All you need to know for backpacking Iquique. I went here to surf and chill out for a few days. Following a 6 week non-stop adventure through Peru and Bolivia. I found the place authentic, truly Chilean at heart. No tourist areas or traps. In fact I met only one other English person in my three-day stay there. I quickly realised you need skills. more than what I have in my locker. To handle the waves that crash onto reef at the back break. Plus, the water is ice so the surfing idea went out the door fast. Regardless, the beach near Backpackers Hostel Iquique is a cracker to relax on.
The coach ride here from San Pedro was a mission, a solid 12-hour overnight mission. There was only one way to handle it, with some Mexican grade sleeping tablets. They hit me hard. I slept the entire way. Then when the coach pulled up into the station at 5am. I dragged my bag onto the nearest bench plonked it down as a pillow and fell asleep. I slept on that bench in that coach station for two hours. Woke up to find a homeless man staring over me. Guess I had his spot. I then taxied to Backpackers Hostel Iquique and fell asleep again on the reception sofa. Great pills.
One thing I will say. This is a reflection for the whole of Chile. I felt safe as houses everywhere I went and also respected. Which for a northern lad with an accent that belongs in a call centre. Is rather bloody nice.
I spent most of my time here on my own. At this point I couldn’t speak Spanish very well so didn’t converse with the Chileans. I spent the evenings planning and booking my Torres Del Paine trek in Patagonia. Feeling like Bear Grylls thinking of the adventure I was slowly heading down to. Here’s my useful to-the-point short guide if you’re thinking of doing the same.
Jumping off a cliff
I booked paragliding. Jumped off the cliff and soared over the city. It was hands down incredible. As I’m pathetically sacred of heights, also terrifying. I reckon it’s one of the best places to do it in South America. The landscape with it’s golden desert sands, blue seas and high-rise buildings. Give it quite the dramatic look. If I do say so myself.
I wandered the town taking photos. Went sand boarding, visited the seals at the port front whilst thinking of witty Instagram captions. Tried different coffee houses and ate cake. I was bulking after food poisoning. I also visited the abandoned mine of Humberstone with the only friend I made in Iquique. The one other English person. She had a similar feel for the place as I did. It’s lovely but maybe a little to local for backpackers. Humberstone was basically a ghost town. It’s a short bus ride away and worth going for a day. Feels like you’re on a school trip to Beamish (google it, northern thing).
- Stay at Backpackers Hostel Iquique for a super friendly vibe. It’s a lovely building and layout too
- Paraglide here it’s simply stunning
- Head to the down town strip area. It’s easy to find and the street is like being on a set of West World
- Have some coffee at Manuel Rodriguez
- Take a sandwich at Patricio Lynch. Best real deal fresh produce sandwich I’d had in many months
- Chill on the beach for a day and run into the ice water for 1 second before your balls fall off (excuse me ladies)
- Head down to the fish market port front of Terminal Rodoviario. To see the seals and walrus eating the left overs whilst chilling in the sun. You can stand right next to them for a cheeky photo
- Walk the length of main beach and back. Stay on the beach don’t head into the city area it’s a bit run down
- Fly to Santiago from here
- Get pizza from the airport, just don’t
- Go sand-boarding unless you’re in a group. It’s mega boring on your own. Although I did capture the above picture which was a great.
Tips for healthy eats
- There’s a big supermarket a 5 min walk from Backpackers Hostel Iquique with meats, fruits and veg.
- The local stalls along the beach front have some simple smoothies for cheap.
- Café Rodriguez a 5 min walk and also close to the supermarket. Was a little gem with natural food bowls and great coffee.
- The sandwiches at Patricio Lynch are huge, fresh and filling.
How to get meat for that protein hit
- I opted for the pre-cooked chicken from the supermarket and the odd steak, which I cooked myself.
- Carried tins of Tuna for lunch on beach days and nuts. It was a struggle to find anywhere selling meats to cook so ate at Todo natural for dinner and sometimes lunch. The chicken dishes were generous on the meat front.
- Being in a group it’s always a pleasure to take the hit on money front for a restaurant to enjoy the company and local scran.
Where to exercise
There’s a few great places to train along the sea front with pull-up bars and specific areas to exercise. You’ll find many people out all throughout the day running and using the simple equipment. I also found a great little spot on the beach front. Further along to the right from the crowds and surfing to hang the TRX off a railing to train. The Chileans seemed to take their nutrition and exercise quite serious. Which is an added motivation training alongside people in the outdoors.