Sitting at an elevation of 7,400 feet, almost 100 miles east of the coast, Calama may not be the first destination that comes to mind when people think of dream Chilean vacations, but as the gateway to Chile's central high desert region, Calama offers easy access to some of Chile's finest wonders, both natural and man-made. And when you stay at one of our Calama vacation rentals, you'll have no trouble seeing everything this area has to offer!
With a population of 150,000, Calama is more laid-back than the bustling, metropolitan capital of Santiago, but as the home to Chuquicamata, the world's largest open pit copper mine, Calama is an economic powerhouse and an integral part of Chile's history.
Until recently, Chuquicamata was the world's largest single supplier of copper, with an annual production total of 630,000 tons. Copper accounts for one-third of Chile's total exports, which makes Calama a key player in the Chilean economy.
The mine itself comprises an area of nearly 5,000 square miles and reaches depths of more than three-quarters of a mile. The mine employs 20,000 people, most of whom live in Calama. Tours are available with bilingual guides, allowing you to get a first-hand glimpse of this mind-bogglingly huge pit.
About 130 miles away, the Los Flamencos National Reserve is a gorgeous destination and a great place to catch a glimpse of local fauna, such as the Andean gull, the Andean fox, and three species of flamingo. Geographic features include salt flats, lagoons, and a tamarugo forest. After a long day traversing the landscape, you're sure to sleep well at your cozy vacation rental!
The Valley of the Moon is an otherworldly location featuring stunning formations of stone and sand, which have been formed by centuries of erosion. There are also numerous caves and dry lakes to explore.
Around 90 miles from Calama, you'll find El Tatio geyser field. With more than 8- active geysers, El Tatio is the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere and is a major tourist attraction, drawing more than 100,000 visitors each year.
Spend an afternoon in the town of Chiu Chiu, located 22 miles east of Calama, touring the San Francisco Church, which was built in the 1600s and is the oldest church in Chile. While you're there, learn a little bit about the culture of the indigenous Atacama people.
Head to the city of San Pedro de Atacama to see the R. P. Gustavo Le Paige Archaeological Museum, which features a collection of nearly 400,000 pre-Colombian artifacts. San Pedro de Atacama also has a beautiful Catholic church, which is built from local adobe.
Calama itself boasts a pedestrian-friendly city center, with plazas and a pedestrian mall lined with market stalls. Pick up some fresh, local ingredients and cook dinner from the comfort of your vacation rental kitchen!
Although it's far from the coast and traditional resort towns like Vina del Mar, Calama is a gorgeous vacation destination with incredible history and breathtaking landscapes. Discover Calama's unexpected beauty for yourself when you stay at one of our Calama vacation rentals!
Photo Credit: Dimitry B. via Flickr