We never expected to be back in Copiapó, Chile, having driven this route from Peru to Santiago in May 2007. But September 2008 found us re-tracing our steps. Click here to read about our 2007 trip.
In 2007, we drove the coast road from Antofagasta to Copiapó and it was beautiful. The road was in good condition too. When we had driven north from Calama to Iquique the Panamericana Highway was pot-holed and in terrible shape. This year, we decided to drive the Panamericana Highway from Antofagasta to Copiapó because we asked several times and were told that the Panamericana Highway had been re-paved.
What we had been told turned out to be true. The Panamericana had been repaved and was in good shape. We left Antofagasta at 10:20 and arrived in Copiapó at 4:30 pm 566 km because we stopped for lunch in Chañaral along the coast. Of course there was lots of sand, with beautiful colors in the Atacama desert. Then there were mountains of colorful sand. Then we crossed the coastal range to the sea.
In the tiny town of Chañaral, we found La Alicanto Restaurant, Panamericana Highway,with the help of the Chile, A Remote Corner on Earth Travel Guide, Empresas Cochrane, Turismo y Comunicaciones, 1992. The name of the restaurant had changed but, after asking at the gas station, we found it. We had a lovely lunch on the ocean at La Alicanto Restaurant with lots of families on Saturday afternoon. We had agua (CLP$.900), very delicious erizos salsa verde (CLP$2.600) and paila marina CLP$3.000), a soup full of lovely shellfish. All delicious.
On the way into town we saw a new 4-story building on the roadside. We didn't want to stay where we had stayed in 2007, so we checked it out. We were worried that it would be noisy but it wasn't. We stayed at Hostal Maray, Panamericana Norte km 813, fono: (56-52)352-400, e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, web: www.hostalmaray.cl CLP$40.000 for a new room in the 4 story tower with wi-fi and a radiator (that was never turned on). So, we used our own heater and it wasn't cold.
We had dinner at Club Social Libanes (de Georges Karim Wannous), Los Carrera 350, Copiapó, fono: (56-52)236-371, e-mail: email@example.com, web: www.restobarlibanes.cl. We had a nice meal but we were the only ones there. The waiter was good until he left the building before we were finished. We left CLP$10.000 (with the consent of the cook) on the table when we were ready to go. We ordered a hojas de parra rellenas (CLP$2.100), tabbule (CLP$2.100), ensalada de pepino con laban (CLP$1.600), hummus (CLP$1.600),2 glasses of wine (CLP$1.800) and Arabic sweets that weren't good.
The breakfast the next morning at Hostal Maray was an abomination; no coffee, just Nescafe, no water. No fresh fruit, just canned and sugared. The breakfast room was cold and the server terrible. For this hotel to charge US$80 for an ordinary room and then not provide an adequate breakfast was criminal.