From San Pedro to the coast
Oficina Salitrera Chacabuco
Chacabuco was a mining town at the time of the saltpetre-produced nitrate boom. It once sheltered up to 5,000 people, but it is now a ghost town with a peculiar history.
Founded in 1924, the production stopped abruptly in the early 30s. The discovery of synthetic nitrate, in Germany, crippled saltpetre mining operations all over northern Chile.
In 1971, the site was declared a Historic Monument of Chile and restoration works started. It didn't last long since in 1973, after a military coup, the dictator Pinochet turned it into a concentration camp for political prisoners.
The camp housed some 1,800 prisoners many of whom were doctors, lawyers, artists, writers, teachers, and workers from all over Chile.
Nowadays, the partially restored ghost town is an interesting place to visit.
La Encañada Geoglyphs
This small hydroelectric plant on the Loa River was built by the German businessman Henry Sloman in order to power five nitrate-saltpetre plants in the region.
Its construction required about 200 workers and started in 1905 to end in 1911. With the end of the saltpetre mining operations in the early 30s, the plant was abandoned, and then dismantled in 1965. The dam is still used to control irrigation needed by farmers of the Quillagua Valley.
The site is under private administration, but since 2017, due to a lack of money, the place is under judicial auction.