Founded by a British company in 1926, María Elena is a dusty place that warrants a visit if you want to see a functioning nitrate town. It's home to the employees of the region's last two nitrate plants. The 8,000 people who live in María Elena are proud of their history—nearly every house has a picture of the town hanging inside. A tiny but informative museum on the town's main square houses many artifacts from the nitrate boom as well as a few from the pre-Columbian
era. The town is about 148 km (92 mi) north of Chacabuco.