Humberstone – The Ghost City

So there we were, in Iquique with our friends, talking about places and food, experiences and people.

  • “Humberstone, you can’t miss it! It is one of the craziest and full of history places on Earth! Guys, you have to go there! The children will love it! Even better, let’s go together!” said Christian

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It seemed like a great idea as we had already been with them on a boat trip to see the sea lions and how they happily share their habitat with humans. But with our family it’s like this – hardly ever happening what we have planned!

Humberstone and Santa Laura are former saltpeter mines located about 50 km east of Iquique in the Atacama Desert in the region of Tarapacá in Northern Chile. More of our stories from Chile you can find out here!

We visited Humberstone on our way to Bolivia and it was one of the funniest, creepy experiences ever! And yes, the children loved it!

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“Humberstone and Santa Laura works contain over 200 former saltpeter works where workers from Chile, Peru and Bolivia lived in company towns and forged a distinctive communal pampinos culture. That culture is manifested in their rich language, creativity and solidarity, and, above all, in their pioneering struggle for social justice, which had a profound impact on social history. Situated in the remote desert Pampa, one of the driest deserts on Earth, thousands of pampinos lived and worked in this hostile environment, for over 60 years, from 1880, to process the largest deposit of saltpeter in the world, producing the fertilizer sodium nitrate that was to transform agricultural lands in North and South America, and in Europe, and produce great wealth for Chile. Because of the vulnerability of the structures and because of the impact of a recent earthquake, the site was also placed on the List of Wold Heritage in Danger to help mobilize resources for its conservation.” – Wikipedia


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In 2005 Humberstone and Santa Laura were declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

When we arrived at Humberstone it was already around 6 pm and the sun was in a hurry to hide behind the sandy hills. Gabi was tired and kind of blue as we left our good friend Luis house where we so much felt “at home”.

We were all at low energy and already missing Iquique after just 50 km driving and we discovered that we had just one hour to visit the town.

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Gabi chose to visit it the next day so I and the children went inside for one of the most ghostly experiences of our lives! After entering the gate, a whole abandoned city was revealed to us. Because of the late hour we were the only visitors. The town is quite big as it was the home of 3.700 of people along the way.

The architecture has a strong English style. We were running from one house to another, from School to the Theater. We were amazed of how developed this community was so many years ago. They were very well organized in both sectors, industrial and urban. They had a hospital, theater, church, hotel, a swimming pool and even a tennis yard!

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But as I was saying the night was falling and the scared children made the trip unforgettable! We got lost several times and the map was of no use as we had so poor light. We laughed, we screamed and we ran as if running for our lives anytime we heard strange noises!

I will let you enjoy the photos and I suggest not waiting for Halloween to visit Humberstone.

Next day, we visited the city again to have a closer look on daylight! It was a totally different experience and I don’t know which one I liked more!

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