Arica is a commune and a port city with a population of 196,590 in the Arica Province of northern Chile's Arica y Parinacota Region. It is Chile's northernmost city, being located only 18 km (11 mi) south of the border with Peru. The city is the capital of both the Arica Province and the Arica and Parinacota Region. Arica is located at the bend of South America's western coast known as the Arica Bend or Arica Elbow. At the location of the city two lush valleys that dissect the Atacama Desert converge: Azapa and Lluta. These valleys provides fruit for export.
Arica is an important port for a large inland region of South America. The city serves a free port for Bolivia and manages substantial part of that country's trade. In addition it is the end station of the Bolivian oil pipeline beginning in Oruro. The city's strategic position is enhanced by being next to the Pan-American Highway, being connected to both Tacna in Peru and La Paz in Bolivia by railroad and being served by an international airport.
Its mild weather have make Arica known as the "city of the eternal spring" in Chile while its beaches are frequented by Bolivians. The city was an important port already during Spanish colonial rule. Chile acquired the city from Peru in 1883 after the War of the Pacific. A substantial part of African Chileans live in or trace their origins to Arica.
The Morro de Arica is a steep and tall hill located in the city. Its height is 139 meters above sea level. It was the last bulwark of defence for the Peruvian troops who garrisoned the city. It was assaulted and captured on June 7, 1880 by Chilean troops in the last part of their Campaña del Desierto (Desert Campaign) during the War of the Pacific.
Near the city is the Azapa Valley, an oasis where vegetables and Azapa olives are grown. Economically, it is an important port for Chilean ore, and its tropical latitude, dry climate, and the city's beach, have made Arica a popular tourist destination. It is also a center of rail communication with Bolivia and has its own international airport. Arica has strong ties with the city of Tacna, Peru; many people cross the border daily to travel between the cities, partly because many services (for example, dentists) are cheaper on the Peruvian side. Arica is connected to Tacna in Peru and to La Paz in Bolivia by separate railroad lines.
Arica features the rare, mild desert climate. Unlike many other cities with arid climates, Arica seldom sees extreme temperatures throughout the course of the year. Arica is also known as one of the driest inhabited places on Earth, at least as measured by rainfall: average annual precipitation is 0.76 mm (0.03 inches), as measured at the airport meteorological station. Despite its lack of rainfall, humidity and cloud cover are high. With humidity levels similar to those of equatorial climates the sunshine intensity is similar to the Sahara desert regions in the Northern Hemisphere (like the Cape Verde islands). Oxford geographer Nick Middleton's book on people who live in extreme climates, Going to Extremes (ISBN 0-330-49384-1), discusses his visit to this city.