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La Serena

Most travelers visit the city of La Serena for two reasons. For one, La Serena is an immensely popular summer beach destination for Chilean vacationers, and it also serves as the primary hub for exploring the equally popular ElquĂ­ Valley.


The city of La Serena (which lies about 471km north of Santiago and has a population of about 200,000) was founded in 1544, making it the third oldest city in the country. In its infancy, however, it was almost completely destroyed by fire by the region’s indigenous people, leading Francisco de Aguirre to rebuild the city on the opposite side of the river. For this reason, the Elquí river now divides city’s geography into two parts: the “parte baja” (which was burned shortly after it was founded), also known as the half-abandoned and unvisited Las Companias, and the “parte alta,” the part of the city visited by most travelers. The city’s longevity is perhaps best evidenced in its plethora of churches (twenty-nine in all!), stone structures that date back centuries and stand in stark contrast to the modern offices and buildings of commerce that surround them.


Though not a big city, La Serena vibrates with energy and activity during the day. The sunny Plaza de Armas in the center of town has benches surrounding a large central fountain, providing a popular place to sit on a nice afternoon. On the perimeter of this plaza you’ll find the Iglesia Catedral, from which split off the city’s main commercial avenues, the parallel streets Prat and Cordovez.


The main attraction to the city, however, is its beach, which bursts at the seams with tourists from Argentina and Chile during the summer. Along the beach runs the Avenida del Mar, a strip of nice restaurants and pricey, nothing-special hotels. As with many of Chile’s popular beaches, you’ll have to choose between an over-crowded but lively atmosphere in the summer and a quieter visit in the winter.

Neighborhoods in La Serena: Around La Serena,

Other places nearby La Serena: Vallenar, Alto del Carmen, Coquimbo, Tongoy and Huasco.

By Lauren Yero
I am a recent liberal arts graduate who travels as a compulsion. I have lived in several regions of the US as well as briefly abroad in England and...
22 Sep 2008

Top Places in La Serena


124856A quick bus ride to the south from La Serena takes you to the charming beachside towns of Tongoy and Guanaqueros. Tongoy is the larger of the two, with more restaurants and hotel options and an ...
Tongoy, Around La Serena, La Serena, Chile

Things to do in La Serena

La Serena Beaches

125085A walk down Av. Francisco de Aguirre from the center of town leads to a quaint lighthouse, the Avenida del Mar and La Serena’s long, popular beach. The beach is not nearly as pristine as others ...
La Serena, Chile

Parque Japones Kokoro No Niwa

125086La Serena’s Japanese Garden is a small yet pleasant retreat from the busy plazas and markets in the center of town. The soothing sound of small waterfalls and the carefully landscaped plot, ...
Other Activity
La Serena, Chile

Craft Markets

There’s a small number of craft markets of varying degrees of size and quality scattered around the city. The largest market in town, La Recova, is near the Iglesia San Augustín in a two-story ...
La Serena, Chile

Museo ArqueolĂłgico

La Serena’s Museo Arqueológico, a mid-sized museum displaying archaeological findings from all over Chile, serves as a solid introduction to the history of the first people to populate the ...
La Serena, Chile

Museo Histórico Casa Gabriel González Videla

This museum is actually a former adobe house designed by 19th century architect José Viera. It is named after the former Chilean president (1946 – 1952) who was born in La Serena and gave back to ...
La Serena, Chile

Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory

Perched 2200 meters atop a hill 88 km southeast of La Serena lies an impressive cluster of futuristic domes otherwise known as the Observatorio Cerro Tololo. Bought in 1967 by Asociation of ...
Other Activity
Around La Serena, La Serena, Chile
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