Ghost Towns: Santa Laura and Humberstone
- Santa Laura: Take in the massive processing plant and the eerily well-preserved homes that once housed salt mine workers and their families.
- Humberstone: Walk by the abandoned iron swimming pool and the town's theater, where townspeople once enjoyed watching Spanish operas called zarzuelas.
- The Cerro Dragon: Get a glimpse of this astounding, four-kilometer dune formation that snakes high above the city of Iquique.
About this Iquique tour
Saltpeter. Nitrates. Minerals. Potassium nitrate salt has several names, but to savvy businesspeople looking to get rich in Chile during the second half of the 19th century, one was most appropriate: White gold.
First discovered in the region around 1862, this valuable substance attracted both local and overseas interest from entrepreneurs. One of them was a man named James Thomas Humberstone, a British chemist who, in the 1860s, created a salt mining operation originally known as La Palma. The name was later changed to honor Humberstone himself.
By 1883, the War of the Pacific between Chile and the combined forces of Peru and Bolivia had ended, and in the economic stability that came with peacetime the nitrate industry flourished. Chile became one of the world's biggest exporters of salt. The outposts of Santa Laura and Humberstone were booming, with thousands of residents. Shops, restaurants, and churches sprang up, and plans were made for even more expansion. At the turn of the century, things were looking up for Chile's nitrate industry.
All of that changed after World War I. A German scientist named Fritz Haber invented a process to create synthetic nitrates in 1913. The spread of this process across Europe, combined with the global impact of the Great Depression in the 1930s, was a death knell for Chilean nitrate. Production plummeted over the next several years at Santa Laura and Humberstone: Both closed in the late 1950s.
As you explore the ghost towns, keep your eyes peeled: You can still see possessions strewn throughout the town as residents hurried to leave. These once-prosperous outposts provide a striking visual lesson on the boom-and-bust nature of the mining towns of the 19th century.
Ghost towns that almost vanished
Many of the area's other mining outposts have completely disappeared because of the harsh desert climate. Santa Laura and Humberstone might have met the same fate, but the businessman who purchased the two plots went bankrupt before he could sell them for scrap. They are now both national monuments of Chile.
Iquique Cruise Pier. Your guide will be standing on your ship's pier close to where you will disembark. They will holding a sign with your name on it.
Air-conditioned transportation cannot be guaranteed in this destination. Please bring some cash for any purchases you might like to make.
This tour's activity level is moderate. Anticipate walking over some uneven surfaces and paved walkways and climbing a few stairs.
Cultural, Family Friendly, Walking Tour, Bus Tour
Beverage - Water
Tour Participation Requirements
This experience is rated moderate. Full participation may require extended periods of walking over even and uneven surfaces, steep terrain and/or water activity in a slight current. There may be steps, inclines, cobblestone surfaces, and extended periods of standing. Participants with physical limitations should take this into account.
Suitable for all ages.
Full refunds issued for cancellations made 7 full days prior to the date and time of requested services. Cancellations made within the 7-day and 72-hour window will receive a 50% refund of purchase total. Purchases are non-refundable inside of 72 hours.
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