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Bus route from Ilo to Tacna

This is a great bus trip for day trips if you're staying on the beach in Ilo and looking for things to do, or coming across the border from Argentina to get a feel for Peru without going very far. The general climate is desert with wide open skies, and it is also known for its immense wetlands (birding) and vineyards.

In and around Ilo, I would recommend the museum of the Chiribaya people at El Algarrobal just outside of town to the northeast, as this was the foundational culture that inhabited the area and you can see how they sustained themselves in it and their artifacts. Plan to go even farther up the road towards Moqegua where you will come to the striking Toquepala Cave with paintings of a hunter's gathering dated from 7500 B.C.

Inside of town, the Peruvian Navy has their own museum, providing insight into the maritime history of the fleet. Outside of town on the other side, go visit Reserva Punta de Coles, a dramatic peninsula totally surrounded by the sea except on three sides with crashing waves and a favorite gathering spot for sea lions.

Now head south right along the coast to get to Humedales de Ite, Peru’s largest wetlands which was formed from mining activities until it was turned over to nature. The wetlands are 11.7 kilometers (7 mi) long and you can see lots of sea birds there. On the southern edge of the wetlands and the town of Ite is a white-sand beach popular with surfers called Playa Mece (or Punta Mesa). Before you leave Ite, make sure and go up to the Mirador of Ite, an in-town lookout that provides a sweeping view of the area, especially unforgettable at sunset.

The next stop is the main tourist beach destination of the region, Boca del Rio, but if you prefer more isolated getaways, the coast getting there is desolate. There aren't many accomodations, so you might want to stay in Boca del Rio and just go back north a bit until you find your private paradise. Boca del Rio itself can be busy on weekends and holidays but has a large variety of accommodation, restaurants and other services, as well as a water park for kids.

The highway then bends inland where in no time at all you'll be in Tacna, a base for seeing and doing several things in the coastal inland frontier. To orient yourself to the choices, basically there are two valley routes extending out like limbs from the trunk, which is the town of Tacna.

The northern limb is the Locumba Valley (because it takes you to the town of Locumba on the inland road to Moquegua. This valley is where all the famous wine is produced, but also chili peppers, so get off and sample along the way.

The eastern limb is the "Old Valley" (Valle Viejo de Tacna), which you can interpret in two ways. It is "old" because this is where the old Tacna traditions are preserved in the sweet little towns of Pocollay, Calana and Pachía, and where you can sit town and try the typical cuisine of the area. It is "old" in another way, too, as this is where you will find the Miculla archaeological complex, that include remarkable petroglyphs (pictured here) of humans, animals, and astrological bodies, believed to be drawn by the Tihuanaco culture (500 to 1100 A.D.). The landscape is stark and adds to the thrill, but when you're done visiting and have had enough heat, just make your way to the nearby Pachía hot springs aside the Caplina River, where the medicinal water is just perfect for healing bones, muscles, and skin, and has several local places to eat and sleep.


Miculla petroglyphs near Tacna
  • On this route:
  • El Algarrobal |
  • Punta de Coles |
  • Punta Picada |
  • Ite |
  • Puerto Grau |
  • Punta Colorada |
  • Boca del Rio |
  • Los Baños |
  • Playa Llostay |
  • Tomasiri |
  • Piqueta |
  • Locumba |
  • Pocollay |
  • Pachía |
  • Miculla |
  • Tacna!

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