Chuquicamata Copper Mine

Chuquicamata Copper Mine

Photo by Till Niermann (wikimedia commons)

Motorhoming in Calama

Photo by Johan Bilien (Flickr Creative Commons)Laguna Cejas, Salar de Atacama Photo by Johan Bilien (Flickr Creative Commons)

The dusty mining town of Calama is just like a scene from a Wild West movie.  It sits on a high, arid, mountain range and is one of the driest places in the whole world, although the River Loa, Chile’s longest river runs through it.  This would probably not be somewhere that the average tourist would stop for too long, as it is really only a stopping off point for the Atacama Desert.  For visitors with motorhome rental or campervan hire, there is little choice, but at least you will have your own comfortable surroundings rather than having to find a hotel for the night.  

Services for Motorhome Rental vehicles

There is just one campsite in Calama, Camping Los Canelos which is situated in Calle Cobija, they don’t have a website, but if you do want to prebook you can call them in advance; although there’s probably no need.  The other option, which you will probably using a lot, is to pull off the road into a shady spot for the night.  Here especially you will not be disturbed, but make sure you always stock up on food water and fuel before you move on.

Top things to see and do
Calama itself doesn’t hold much interest for visitors, but some of the nearby towns and villages have some interesting places to visit.  Here are a few.

The nearby town of Chuquicamata has the largest open pit copper mine in the world.  This area has been used for copper mining since around 550 A.D, how do they know?  Well, they discovered a ‘copper man’ in a disused mine shaft in 1898; he was a man that had been mummified in copper.  

Salar de Tara, Salar de Aguas Calientes and Salar de Atacama are all salt flats.  Salar de Tara has both permanent and seasonal lakes and has been designated a ‘Wetland of International Importance’, it’s the habitat for many  rare and endangered species of wildlife such as the Vicuna and Mountain Viscacha, and other endangered birds such as the Andean Gull and the Horned Coot.  Salar Atacama is the best place to see Andean Flamingo, Speckled Teal, and Baird’s Sandpiper.

Another wonder is the El Tatio geyser.  This area is home to 80 active geysers, but El Tatio is the largest, not only here, but in the southern hemisphere, it comes third in the world after the geyser in Yellowstone national Park in the US, and Dolina Giezerov in Russia. You may have seen picture of the great geysers of Iceland shooting great distances into the air, unfortunately the average height here is 75cm!  If size isn’t important to you but good photo opportunities are come here are sunrise when the air is cold and the effect of steam is at its greatest.

Calama is a very different kind of experience for visitor’s on a motorhome rental or campervan hire holiday in Chile, but its dust and natural wonders are certainly worth stopping off for.

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