Lighthouses of Northern Chile

Chile has one of the world's longest and most dangerous coastlines, more than 4000 km (2500 mi) long with at least 5000 rocky islands. To guard this coast, the Chilean Navy operated for many years one of the world's most active and most distinguished lighthouse services, the Chilean Maritime Signaling Service (Servicio de Señalización Marítima). This organization seems to have disappeared in a recent reorganization of the Navy, leaving the management of aids to navigation in the hands of the regional naval commands, one in each of the country's 15 regions. This page covers the five northernmost regions: Coquimbo, Atacama, Antofagasta, Iquique, and Arica.

Chile's present northern border was not established until 1929. During the War of the Pacific (1879-1883), Chile conquered the Atacama region from Bolivia and occupied the Antofagasta, Iquique, Arica, and Tacna regions of Peru. The Chilean occupation of Tacna and Arica was the cause of an extended dispute between Chile and Peru. In a 1929 agreement, the disputed area was divided, with Tacna returning to Peru and Arica remaining in Chile. The Península Serrano lighthouse at Iquique, shown at right, was built by Peru before the start of the war.

Many of the historic lighthouses of Chile are the work of George Slight (1859-1934), a Scottish engineer who moved to Chile in the 1890s and eventually became the head of the Chilean Maritime Signaling Service. In all, he designed and supervised the construction of more than 70 lighthouses.

Chile is divided into 15 regions (regiónes). The Spanish word for a lighthouse is faro. In Spain, the word faro is usually applied only to the larger coastal lights, but in South America it is often used for all fixed lights, including towers too small to be considered lighthouses.

Additional information is needed for most of these lighthouses, and recent photos would be especially welcome.

ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume G of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S. NGA List numbers are from Publication 111. The Chilean light list, Lista de Faros de la Costa de Chile, is not available online.

General Sources
Faros de Chile
Index to articles in the Spanish language Wikipedia.
Online List of Lights - Chile
Photos by various photographers posted by Alexander Trabas. Many of the photos are by Carlos María Silvano.
Faros y Balizas de Chile
Flickr.com group pool, with more than 200 photos of Chilean lighthouses.
Lighthouses in Chile
Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
World of Lighthouses - Chile
Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Lighthouses of Northern Chile
Five excellent photos contributed by Iván Vargas.
Leuchttürme Südamerikas auf historischen Postkarten
Historic postcard views posted by Klaus Huelse.

Faro Punta Serrano
Península Serrano Light, Iquique
photo by Servicio de Señalización Marítima

Coquimbo Region Lighthouses
Isla Huevos (Los Vilos, Bahía de Conchalí) (2?)
Date unknown (station established 1901). Active; focal plane 19 m (62 ft); red flash every 10 s. 4 m (13 ft) round fiberglass tower, colored red. Alejandro Cortés has a photo, and Bing has a distant satellite view. The original light was described as a white tower with a green lantern. Located on a small island off the south side of Los Vilos, a fishing port and beach resort. Accessible only by boat. Site status unknown. Admiralty G1890; NGA 1216.
Punta de Tablas (Cabo Tablas)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 72 m (236 ft); white flash every 10 s. 5 m (17 ft) round fiberglass tower, colored white with one red horizontal band. Pato Novoa has a distant view, and Google has a distant satellite view. Located on a steep-sided rock at the tip of a cape about 13 km (8 mi) north of Los Vilos. Practically inaccessible, but easily seen from a hiking trail on the mainland. Site status unknown. Admiralty G1892; NGA 1212.
* Punta Tortuga (Coquimbo) (3?)
Date unknown (station established 1886). Active; focal plane 24 m (79 ft); white flash every 13 s. 4 m (13 ft) lantern, mounted on a square concrete foundation directly on the rocky point. Lantern painted red with a white roof. A 2008 photo is available, Juan Castro has a closeup, and the tiny tower is centered in Google's satellite view. The original light was apparently replaced in 1898 by a "dark-colored tower," elsewhere described as wooden and in an English style. Punta Tortuga is the headland sheltering the bay of Coquimbo. Located beyond the end of Camino El Faro, about 3 km (2 mi) north northwest of downtown Coquimbo. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-077; Admiralty G1900; NGA 1184.
*** Monumental La Serena
1950. Active; focal plane 28 m (92 ft); white flash every 5 s. 25 m (82 ft) cream-colored square concrete tower, rising from the center of a square 1-story building. Gallery red; lantern with domed roof. Johan Fabry's photo is at right, José Francisco Carle Carrera has a good photo, Wikimedia has several photos, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. The lighthouse was built as a landmark terminating the Avenida Francisco de Aguirre, which links the old city to the sea. The Navy conveyed ownership of the building to the city in 1996; the lighthouse is now used as a cultural center and meeting hall. Located directly on the beach in La Serena. Site open and tower open. Site manager: Municipalidad de La Serena. ARLHS CHI-002; Admiralty G1900.5; NGA 1176.
Punta Mostacilla
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 38 m (125 ft); white flash every 5 s. 8 m (26 ft) round cylindrical fiberglass tower, painted white with one narrow red horizontal band. A closeup photo is available, Carlos Tapia Ronda has a distant view, and Google has a satellite view. This light marks a small artificial harbor. Located on a promontory about 12 km (7.5 mi) northwest of La Higuera. Site status unknown. ARLHS-072; Admiralty G1908; NGA 1168.
La Serena Light
La Serena Light, La Serena, March 2009
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Johan Fabry

Atacama Region Lighthouses
Isla Chañaral (2)
Date unknown (station established 1897). Active; focal plane 58 m (190 ft); white flash every 12 s. 7.5 m (25 ft) round tower with gallery, painted with red and white bands. A 2011 photo is available, and Google has a satellite view. The Isla Chañaral is the largest of the Islotes Atacama, located about 6 km (3.5 mi) offshore and about 65 km (40 mi) southwest of Huasco (not near the port of Chañaral). The site of the world's largest breeding colony of Humboldt penguins, the island is part of the Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt. Visitation is by permit only. Site and tower closed. ARLHS CHI-042; Admiralty G1916; NGA 1164.
*** Monumental de Huasco
1996. Active (unofficial; maintained by the municipality); focal plane about 25 m (82 ft); white light, characteristic unknown. 22 m (72 ft) octagonal concrete tower with lantern. Tower painted white; lantern dome is red. A photo is available, Google has a street view, and Bing has a satellite view. From 2004 to 2009 the tower was painted with red and white bands, as seen in a 2005 photo. The lighthouse was built by the city as a tourist attraction. Located on the waterfront of Huasco. Site open, tower reported open for climbing but no details are available. Owner/site manager: Municipalidad de Huasco.
* Punta Caldera (2)
1868. Active; focal plane 38 m (125 ft); white flash every 12 s. 18.5 m (61 ft) square wood tower with lantern and gallery, painted with red and white bands. Horacio Parrague's photo is at right, Iván Vargas has contributed a photo, Marcelo Báez has a photo, and Google has a satellite view and a distant street view. In Huelse's historic postcard view, the lighthouse appears without the horizontal bands. Chile's only all-wooden lighthouse. The lighthouse was restored in 1947 and again in 1987. Located on a prominent cape about 5 km (3 mi) northwest of the waterfront of Caldera; the cape is accessible by road but it's a tough hike from the end of the road to the lighthouse. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-065; Admiralty G1924; NGA 1148.
*** Monumental Chañaral (Faro del Milenio)
2000. Active (maintained by the municipality); focal plane 83 m (272 ft); white flash every 5 s. 15 m (49 ft) round metal (steel?) tower with lantern, mounted on a 1-story circular stone base. A photo and a second photo is available, Leon Calquin's photo shows the situation of the lighthouse, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This lighthouse was built by the city of Chañaral as a Millennium project and tourist attraction. It was inaugurated 1 September 2000. The interior of the tower contains an exhibition space. Located on a steep hillside above Chañaral. Site open, tower believed to be open but we do not have schedule information. Owner/site manager: Municipalidad de Chañaral. ARLHS CHI-090; Admiralty G1932; NGA 1141.

Punta Caldera Light, Caldera, August 2010
Panoramio Creative Commons photo by Horacio Parrague
Punta Achurra
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 32 m (105 ft); white flash every 15 s. 8 m (26 ft) round fiberglass tower colored white with a red horizontal band. No photo available, but Bing has a distant satellite view. Located on a promontory on the north side of the bay of Chañaral. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-062; Admiralty G1936; NGA 1130.

Antofagasta Region Lighthouses
Caleta Coloso
Date unknown (station established 1917). Active; focal plane 36 m (118 ft); three white flashes every 12 s. 20 m (67 ft) rectangular metal tower, painted with red and white bands. No photo available, and the tower is not seen in Google's street view or satellite view. The building is part of the port of Caleta Caloso, a shipment point for nitrate from the Atacama Desert. Located on a headland about 18 km (11 mi) south of Antofagasta. Site status unknown. ARLHS CHI-037; Admiralty G1940; NGA 1127.
Antofagasta (Outer Breakwater, Extremo Molo de Abrigo)
1934. Active; focal plane 18 m (59 ft); white flash every 5 s. 14 m (43 ft) octagonal concrete tower with lantern and gallery, painted with red and white horizontal bands. Felipe Ascencio's photo appears at right, David Pérez has a photo, Iván Vargas has contributed an older photo in which lighthouse is painted all red, and Google has a satellite view. Located on the end of the main (south) breakwater at Antofagasta. Site status unknown. ARLHS CHI-058; Admiralty G1946; NGA 1124.
Antofagasta Molo Este
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 6 m (20 ft); green flash every 5 s. 5 m (17 ft) round cylindrical dark green fiberglass tower with lantern. This light is seen at lower left in David Pérez's photo of the outer breakwater light, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the east (really the north) mole of Antofagasta's modern harbor. Site status unknown. Admiralty G1947; NGA 1120.
Punta Tetas
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 33 m (108 ft); white flash every 18 s. 8 m (26 ft) round fiberglass tower, painted white with one narrow red horizontal band. Gerhard Huedepohl has an aerial view, and Google has a satellite view. This site would be a long walk from the nearest road. Located on the cape at the northern entrance to the Bahía de Antofagasta. Site status unknown. ARLHS CHI-075; Admiralty G1948; NGA 1112.
* Punta Angamos (2?)
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 109 m (358 ft); white flash every 10 s. 8 m (26 ft) slender round fiberglass tower, colored white with one red horizontal band. Erasmo Rivera has a closeup photo, and Google has a satellite view. Iván Vargas has contributed a photo of a light similar to the Punta Gruesa Light (see below); this light apparently does not survive. A nearby viewpoint is a popular tourist attraction. The headland of Punta Angamos projects into the Pacific northwestward, sheltering the Bahía Mejillones. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-096; Admiralty G1952; NGA 1108.
Antofagasta Light
Extremo Molo de Abrigo Light, Antofagasta, December 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Felipe Ascencio
* Puerto Mejillones del Sur
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); green flash every 3 s. The light was mounted originally on the balcony of the square tower of the harbormaster's office, a 2-story 19th century building painted white with red trim. Google's street view suggests that the light has been moved to a skeletal tower on the roof of the building. Javier Velasco has posted a 2003 closeup photo, and Google has a satellite view. Mejillones del Sur is a small town facing north onto a broad bay about 80 km (50 mi) north of Antofagasta. Located on the beach. Site open, building presumably open, tower status unknown. Admiralty G1953; NGA 1098.

Iquique Area (Tarapacá Region) Lighthouses
* Punta Gruesa (Iquique)
Date unknown (station established 1947). Active; focal plane 27 m (89 ft); white flash every 10 s. 10 m (33 ft) pyramidal concrete tower atop a 1-story equipment room; light displayed from a small lantern on the front face of the tower. Iván Vargas has contributed a photo, Juan Euler has a photo, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. The light is a memorial to Chilean seamen lost in the Battle of Iquique and its continuation, the Battle of Punta Gruesa, on 21 May 1879. Located on a headland about 15 km (10 mi) south of Iquique. Site open, tower closed. Admiralty G1964; NGA 1072.
Península Serrano
1878 (Barbier et Fenestre). Reactivated (inactive 1946-1995); focal plane 39 m (128 ft); white flash every 12 s. 22 m (72 ft) slender cylindrical cast iron tower with four skeletal legs, painted with red and white bands (lantern red). A Navy photo appears at right, a blogger's page has several photos, Google has a street view, and the tower is centered in a Google satellite view. This lighthouse was built by the French firm Barbier et Fenestre for the government of Peru, which controlled the Iquique area at the time. The lighthouse was placed in operation in time to witness the naval Battle of Iquique in May 1879; later that year the city was conquered by Chilean forces. Declared a National Monument in 1986, this lighthouse is a rare surviving example of French lighthouse design. The lighthouse was carefully restored and reactivated in 1993-95. Located on the Serrano Peninsula on the south side of the Bay of Iquique. The lighthouse is in the middle of the commerical port of Iquique, and the absence of photos suggests that this area is not open to the public. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-095; Admiralty G1974.3; NGA 1050.
Iquique (Molo de Abrigo, Outer Breakwater) (2)
1932 (station established 1903). Active; focal plane 19 m (62 ft); red flash every 10 s. 13.5 m (44 ft) octagonal masonry tower with lantern and gallery. Entire lighthouse painted red. A photo by Denise Ruiz-Aburto Aguilar is at right, Eric De Pablo has a 2009 photo, a view from the sea are available, Trabas has a view from the sea by Capt. Theo Hinrichs, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. Located at the end of the west breakwater at Iquique, which projects from the north side of the Península Serrano. Site and tower closed. ARLHS CHI-082; Admiralty G1968; NGA 1036.

Outer Breakwate Light, Iquique
Flickr Creative Commons photo by Denise Ruiz-Aburto Aguilar

Arica Region (Región de Arica y Parinacota) Lighthouses
* Península Alacrán (Isla Alacrán) (2)
Date unknown (station established 1913). Active; focal plane 23 m (75 ft); white flash every 15 s. 8 m (26 ft) round fiberglass tower, painted white with a red band. The Isla Alacrán is a small island just off the coast, now joined to shore by a causeway. Kuba Jurkowski has a closeup photo, Dany Valcarce has a second closeup, and Google has a street view and a satellite view. This light replaced a historic lighthouse, and Ricardo Martini 's photo suggests that it may be built on the foundations of the earlier light. Located between the commercial and small boat harbors at Arica. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-061; Admiralty G1984; NGA 1012.
Arica South Breakwater
Date unknown. Active; focal plane 20 m (66 ft); red flash every 5 s. 12 m (39 ft) concrete post with an enclosed concrete lantern, painted red. E. Guzmán has a 2009 photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the end of the breakwater. Site and tower closed. ARLHS CHI-059; Admiralty G1986; NGA 1020.
* Limitrofe (Concordia Range Rear)
1972. Active; focal plane 42 m (138 ft); green flash every 5 s. 22 m (72 ft) square pyramidal steel skeletal tower, all four sides covered with slats painted in red and white bands; light displayed from atop a small square equipment room at the top of the tower. Iván Vargas has contributed a photo, Manuel Arcaya has a sunset photo, and Google has a satellite view. Keeper's house staffed. This light was formerly the rear light of a range. The front light, across the border in Peru, was demolished after being heavily damaged by an earthquake. Located at the Peruvian border about 30 km (19 mi) north of Arica. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS CHI-101; Admiralty G1987; NGA 1008.

Information available on lost lighthouses:

Notable faux lighthouses:

Adjoining pages: North: Southern Perú | South: Central Chile

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Posted December 2004. Checked and revised June 12, 2017. Lighthouses: 22. Site copyright 2017 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.