Humberstone and Santa Laura, Tarapacá

km 47 A-16, Pozo Almonte, Región de Tarapacá, Chile
+56 57 276 0626

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Exploring the Saltpeter Offices of Humberstone and Santa Laura in Tamarugal

Tucked away in the arid landscapes of Tamarugal, Chile, lie two remarkable historical sites that offer a glimpse into the region's rich past - Humberstone and Santa Laura. These former saltpeter offices, managed by the Saltpeter Museum Corporation, have been declared National Monuments and Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Let's embark on a journey to discover the captivating stories and architectural wonders of Humberstone and Santa Laura.

Historical Significance

Humberstone and Santa Laura played a pivotal role in Chile's saltpeter industry during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Saltpeter, also known as nitrate, was a valuable resource used in the production of fertilizers and explosives. These offices were bustling hubs of activity, housing workers and their families who toiled in the harsh desert conditions.

Architectural Marvels

One of the most striking aspects of Humberstone and Santa Laura is their well-preserved architecture. The buildings showcase a unique blend of European and local influences, reflecting the cultural diversity of the workers who once inhabited these sites. From the grand administrative buildings to the humble workers' quarters, every structure tells a story of the past.

Exploring Humberstone

Humberstone, located approximately 45 kilometers east of Iquique, offers visitors a chance to step back in time. As you wander through the streets of this ghost town, you'll encounter the remnants of a once-thriving community. Explore the schoolhouse, theater, and hospital, which provide a glimpse into the daily lives of the saltpeter workers. Don't miss the iconic clock tower, a symbol of Humberstone's industrial heritage.

Santa Laura's Hidden Gems

A short distance from Humberstone, Santa Laura awaits with its own set of treasures. This smaller saltpeter office boasts a unique feature - a fully operational refinery. Marvel at the machinery and learn about the intricate process of extracting saltpeter from the raw material. The refinery's towering chimneys and industrial structures create a captivating backdrop for exploration.

Fun Facts and Nearby Attractions

Did you know that Humberstone and Santa Laura were abandoned in the 1960s and rediscovered in the 1980s? Today, these sites offer a fascinating glimpse into Chile's industrial past.

While in the area, consider visiting the nearby town of Iquique, known for its beautiful beaches and vibrant culture. Explore the historic district, stroll along the promenade, or indulge in some local cuisine. The nearby Pampa del Tamarugal National Reserve is also worth a visit, with its unique flora and fauna adapted to the desert environment.

When to Visit

The best time to visit Humberstone and Santa Laura is during the cooler months of spring and autumn when temperatures are more comfortable. Keep in mind that the desert climate can be harsh, so be prepared with sunscreen, water, and appropriate clothing.


Humberstone and Santa Laura in Tamarugal, Chile, offer a captivating journey into the region's saltpeter industry and its impact on the local communities. From the architectural marvels to the historical significance, these sites provide a unique glimpse into Chile's industrial heritage. Plan your visit to Tamarugal and immerse yourself in the stories of Humberstone and Santa Laura, where the past comes alive amidst the desert sands.

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