sea, desert, and culinary arts in the Pacific


Iquique, a seaside town located in northern Chile, where the desert and the sea meet, has tasty and distinctive food with Andean and Asian influences

The first impression of Iquique is that the city is in constant flux. Those prone to nostalgia miss the residential atmosphere of the place. But in the last few years, the desert climate made pleasant by the ocean breeze and Iquique’s strategic location - facing the Pacific - have contributed to turn the city into a land of opportunities.

Allow yourself to fall in love with its main beach, Cavancha, or to enjoy the tranquility at Playa Blanca or Chanavayita: remote places where privacy is guaranteed by the mountainous wall formed by the Andes. In addition to its lovely beaches, Iquique is also a cultural destination. A long mining and trading past is preserved in the historic city center.


Meandering through the narrow streets of the El Morro neighborhood near the port takes you to the most delicious and varied restaurants. The El Viejo Wagon (Calle Thompson), opened at the height of the local saltpeter extraction in the early 20th century. It maintains the original décor with pictures and mementos of small towns in the midst of the desert. They pair well with the offerings on the menu: pickled fish preserves, sanco pampino (a ragout made with toasted wheat flour), or the potatoes seasoned with ají criollo, spices, and the famous shellfish.

The food of Andean peoples is showcased in revisited versions at Sumapuriwa (Arturo Prat Chacón, 1062). This is the case of the house’s humitas, corn leaves filled with ground light-colored grains with a slightly sweet taste.


ndian and Indonesian flavors are found at Juni’s, a simple, cheap, and stylish place — or as they call it in Chile, a “picada.” Representing Peruvian cuisine is the restaurant La Mulata (Avenida Arturo Prat, 902). The house’s most popular dishes include seasoned meat and other typical northern delicacie. Away from the coastline and its traditional food, the restaurant Santorini (Avenida Emilio Recabaren, 2808) showcases its Greek culinary heritage in dishes like dakos, a mix of shellfish and greens served over home-baked bread.


A true Iquiqueño likes to be delighted by this sweet, which is pressed and dried before being covered in a sauce made with lemons brought over from the pampas. Simple and efficient, it has won the locals’ hearts. “My great-grandfather, Caupolín Koo Kao, took advantage of my candy maker great-grandmother’s knowledge, in order to create a recipe based on sweet beans — a dessert of Chinese origins like himself,” tells Eduardo Veneciano Koo, of Fábrica de Chumbeques Mr. Koo (Eleuterio Ramirez, 949). “This all happened around 1920 and my great-grandfather named the dessert Chun Queque. The name kept changing until it turned into the current Chumbeque.”

Text Ricardo González
Photos Sebastián Utreras