Now an eerie ghost town marooned on the arid plains of the Atacama Desert, it’s hard to believe that the Humberstone and Santa Laura Saltpeter Works were once home to a thriving
community of miners. The historic refineries were in use from 1880 to 1960, and served as the epicenter of Chile’s once hugely profitable saltpeter (sodium nitrate) mining industry.
The long-abandoned sites are now protected as UNESCO World Heritage sites and offer a fascinating insight into Chile’s history and heritage. Visitors can explore the restored buildings; peek inside the workers’ quarters, church and school; and learn about local life at the small museum, before seeing the old processing plants, mine shafts and mining equipment.