La Serena is just as beautiful as the name suggests. Located in Northern Chile, the capital of the Coquimbo region, the city is full of luxuriously long beaches just waiting to be explored. But don’t worry if you aren’t a fan of sand. La Serena offers so much more in the way of culture, sights, food, and luxury to visitors from around the world.
The city is Chile’s second-oldest, next only to Santiago, the country’s capital. Pair that with the fact that it’s the fast-growing population in Chile and you have a vacation just waiting to be planned.
When you need a break from the bustling streets—especially if you’re visiting during the busy summer season—head to the Museo Histórico Casa Gabriel González Videla, the local history museum that’s named after Chile’s president from 1946-1952, who was also responsible for exiling famous poet Pablo Neruda. The best part: the museum itself is located in a stunning 18th-century mansion worth a visit on its own. Oh, and admission to the museum is free.
There’s plenty of hiking to be had at the nearby Fray Jorge National Park, if you packed your boots and you’re looking to see some scenery that isn’t the desert. If you’re looking for a day trip from La Serena, check out the Elqui Valley. There, at the southernmost tip of the Atacama Desert, you’ll find the place you’ve always dreamed about when you think of the most picture-perfect campout. Stick around until nighttime and you’ll be treated to the most incredible stargazing. The clear skies make it possible to see what feels like millions of stars floating above you. Once you’ve had enough of that, head to one of the many pisco distilleries in the area. It’s a Chilean rum and you won’t want to miss out on a taste.
If historic architecture is on your itinerary, don’t miss La Serena’s many churches—29, to be exact. The area is known for its ability to give visitors a wonderfully preserved peek into the past. To start, check out Plaza de Armas; Iglesia Santo Domingo’s bell tower; and the Iglesia San Francisco, which is the city’s oldest dating back to the 1600s.
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Back to those beaches. There are plenty to choose from but don’t miss Playa El Faro. Not only is it a beautiful spot to soak in some rays, but there’s also a lighthouse you can climb to the top of. The interior isn’t open to visitors, but the view from the top is worth checking out. Compared to the other sections of La Serena, this area has definitely seen the most build-up due to tourism. To help maintain the old world vibe, the city adopted a policy in the 1900s that prioritizes restoring old homes and using traditional local design when building new buildings. The end result is similar to that of a time machine, taking you away from the modern facades you’re used to and into the desert from years past.