Over three hours south of Moquegua and five times larger, TACNA, at 552m above sea level, is the last stop in Peru. The only reason to stay here is if you’re coming from or going over the border into Chile and the border-crossing timing demands you stop, or if you feel like a break in your overland journey. Tacna is designated a Zona Franca (a tax- or duty-free zone) where visitors can spend up to $1000 in any one trip (with a limit of $3000 in a year) on a range of tax-free electronic, sports and other luxury items. Tacna is also a centre for cyclists, particularly in August when there’s usually a bicycle festival attracting competitors and enthusiasts from Bolivia and Chile as well as Peru.

Brief history

Founded as San Pedro de Tacna in 1535, just three years after the Spanish first arrived in Peru, Tacna was established by Viceroy Toledo as a reducción de indigenas, a forced concentration of normally scattered coastal communities, making them easier to tax and use as labour. Almost three hundred years later, in 1811, Francisco Antonio de Zela began the first struggle for independence from Spanish colonialism here. The people of Tacna suffered Chilean occupation from May 1880 until the Treaty of Ancón was signed in August 1929, after a local referendum. Tacna, in fact, has long been noted for its loyalty to Peru and was also highly active in Peruvian emancipation from Spain, though nowadays it’s better known as an expensive city, infamous for both its contraband and its pickpockets. The reputation is worse than the reality: the usual precautions are generally adequate and it’s not a violent place.

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