Visiting Ghost Towns in Northen Chile - Chacabuco and Baquedano Train Station

Chile is famous for its stunning landscapes and delicious wines. However, it also has some quite quirky or eerie (depending on your perspective) sights. 

These two sights were both a big surprise to me and I enjoyed visiting and learning about them much more than expected. 

They're located on the main road connecting Ruta 5 (on the coast) to San Pedro de Atacama This road cuts almost straight through the desert with not much more to see other than rocks, sand, and mining trucks. Visiting Baquedano Train Station and spending the night at Ex Oficina Chacabuco sure were very welcome and exciting breaks from the long drive.

Baquedano Train Station

Baquedano Train Station is located just off the road leading through Baquedano, a small town between Antofagasta and Calama. This is its location.  

It is actually a museum but when we were there nobody was around so we just walked in through the open gate. 

You can still see what's left of a large train parking area. 

We felt free to walk around...

... and to explore the different buildings and antique trains. 

Ex Oficina Chacabuco

The Ex Oficina Chacabuco is located just around 30km past the Baquedano Train Station at this location. Inform the caretaker when you arrive, pay the entrance fee, and then you're free to walk along its abandoned streets to explore this eerie ghost town. The fact that we had the whole place to ourselves absolutely enforced the deserted atmosphere. 

Chacabuco was founded in midst of Chile's nitrate boom in 1924 by the Lautaro Nitrate Company Ltd. to house around 5.000 workers who toiled in the surrounding nitrate mines. It was a big accomplishment to create a town for so many people in this hostile environment surrounded by the desert. However, the town was short lived. When the area's mines started closing in the 1930s the workers had to move on and abandoned the town. 

After having been abandoned for several years, Chacabuco was used as a prisoners concentration camp by the Pinochet regime who sent thousands of political activists, intellectuals, and those opposing the regime to "detention centers" around Chile  between 1973 and 1974.
Find out more details about Chacabuco's history here

The theater is one of the buildings which has been partly restored. 

You can enter it through the staircase. On the second floor there is a room filled with everyday objects used by the inhabitants of Chacabuco. There are also a lot of information boards in Spanish and English with interesting facts about this place and some details about the life people lived there throughout the towns history. The most intriguing parts for me were the many eyewitness accounts by different miners and prisoners.

You can climb onto the roof of the theater. From there you get a 360 degree view over the whole town. This helps to comprehend its true size. 

Time has taken its toll on a lot of buildings so it's important to be careful when entering them.

Some of the industrial building are still intact, including this water tank and huge chimney.

Frozen in time

I just couldn't resist

Around sunset, the atmosphere changes...

...and becomes a lot eerier. 

The friendly caretake of this place allowed us to park our car inside one of the buildings and to spend the night here. This gave us much needed protection from the desert winds and more importantly allowed us to spend a lot more time exploring this ghost town which was especially atmospheric during twilight. 

The next morning - the sun is out again and the ghosts are gone.
A cool breakfast spot before continuing our drive to San Pedro de Atacama. 

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