Antofogasta, the capital of the second region in Chile, is a real invitation to explore the times when saltpetre was responsible for the growth of most of Chile´s northern cities. Throughout the city, you can see the remains of old houses and offices of those who reached this deserted corner of the country in search of fame and fortune. In Antafogasta´s historical centre, most tourists do the traditional circuit that follows the tracks of the pioneers and the old steam trains. The tour starts at the old saltpetre bridge, constructed in 1872, where British boats used to export the precious white powder, saltpetre. Following this are the important historical buildings such as the Resguardo and the Gobernacion Maritima. The latter has since been converted into the Antafogasta Regional Museum and contains a complete exhibition of the natural history and culture of the region. The centenary railway station and other related buildings can also be seen along the way. At the end of the 19th century, Antofogasta became one of the most important nitrate areas of the northern coast. It was here that the most crucial martial conflict was fought between the young republics of Chile and Bolivia. Thousands of soldiers from both nations fought cruel battles in the Pacific War, which resulted in the annexation of this entire province to the Government of Santiago. The mineral wealth and the interest created by firms of that era transformed this zone, which was originally discovered by the Chilean explorers Juan López y José Santos Ossa, in to one of the more prosperous regions, until its decline in the thirties. During the 20th century, saltpetre was substituted by large deposits of copper, now mined at Chuquicamata and Mina La Escondida, which has since revived region. Today, the city’s main activities include fishing and exporting metals. We recommend a visit to the old port, the fair and the fishing terminal, where you can see ships docking and the seafood market. It is not only history however, that is important in this corner enveloped by the blue sea. In the north, towards the Bay of Mejillones, there are huge cliffs that form what is considered by its inhabitants, to be the most dearly loved symbol of the city, La Portada de Antafogasta. This large, natural monument has been formed through millions of years of erosion from the sea. Its magnificent arch which sits on a volcanic island, can be seen on many postcards of the city. Other popular options are excursions outside the city’s centre. Beaches like Almejas, Huascar and the Balneario Municipal in the south have good places to swim and restaurants close to the central campus of the University of Antafogasta. To the north there is a long road near the beaches of Galeón and de la Chimba, which offers spectacular views of the coast. Continuing along this road, you will pass other places of interest, including the ruins of Huanchaca, an old silver mine made in 1873 which, in its prime period, produced 20 tons silver every month. Another popular place is the Paseo Del Mar, where the city´s youth gather throughout the day and night to enjoy the various activities offered there. At the end of this entertaining strip you can see the old Oficina Salitrera José Francisco Vergara, a national monument and the cranes of the mineral port La Escondida. From this regional centre there are also many different trips that are worth taking. One example is the route that goes to Taltal, passing through the legendary mining areas and the spectacular observatory of Cerro Paranal which pertains to the Observatorio Austral Europeo, the most advanced of its type in the world. Another trip to the north is along the circuit that covers the renowned Mejillones Cove and Hornitos, one of the best beaches in the country.