Mina San José

Top choice in Norte Chico

In 2010, 33 miners were trapped more than 700m underground after a devastating collapse within the mountain where they'd been working. Following a Herculean effort – which pulled resources from a number of countries – all the men were successfully rescued. Televised before a global audience of an estimated one billion, the survivors emerged one by one from the specially built rescue capsule to the cheers of friends, family and assorted onlookers – including the president of Chile, Sebastián Piñera.

Although the mine was closed following the accident, the government reopened the site as a tourist attraction in 2015. At the entrance, you’ll pass a hillside with 33 flags (one for each miner, including one Bolivian), which lies near the former site of Campamento Esperanza (Cape Hope), where family and loved ones held a round-the-clock vigil until the men were rescued. Indeed, without the relentless pressure by the miners' spouses, girlfriends and family, rescuers might have given up on the men before they ever made contact (a harrowing 18 days after their ordeal began).

Overlooking the site is a small visitor center that gives details of what the men endured during their 10-week imprisonment deep below the surface. You can watch videos of the unfolding saga and the miners’ rescue, including some powerful reunions with men who were taken for dead. The highlight is the tour (in Spanish only) of the site led by Jorge Galleguillos, one of the original 33.

The mine is around 50km northwest of Copiapó. It's reachable by normal vehicle, though most tour agencies in Copiapó also arrange excursions.

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