View Map

Overview

Though sunny La Serena dates from the mid-16th century, indigenous attacks and recurring earthquakes have left the city with barely a handful of colonial landmarks, but a 20th-century urban renewal project acknowledged that heritage with its "colonial renaissance" architectural style. For most Chilean visitors, the beach remains the big attraction — coastal fog burns off earlier here than it does farther south — but foreign visitors find excursions to wildlife and birding sites, as well as local and international astronomical observatories, more absorbing. Apart from its beaches and distinctive urban design, the city's main attractions ...

Though sunny La Serena dates from the mid-16th century, indigenous attacks and recurring earthquakes have left the city with barely a handful of colonial landmarks, but a 20th-century urban renewal project acknowledged that heritage with its "colonial renaissance" architectural style. For most Chilean visitors, the beach remains the big attraction — coastal fog burns off earlier here than it does farther south — but foreign visitors find excursions to wildlife and birding sites, as well as local and international astronomical observatories, more absorbing. Apart from its beaches and distinctive urban design, the city's main attractions are its historical and archaeological museums, both on or near the central Plaza de Armas. Several well-preserved colonial churches are also nearby, but the adjacent suburb of Coquimbo deserves a visit for its Barrio Inglés, the "English Quarter" that combines attractive renovated plazas and 19th-century port architecture and an active nightlife. It's also home to Chile's largest mosque and a massive millennial Christian cross. Farther afield, there are two can't-miss excursions. About half an hour east of town, Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory offers the chance to view a state-of-the-art star-gazing facility; it's only during daylight hours, but the astronomers themselves now do most of their work with telescopic material downloaded onto their computers. About an hour-plus to the northeast, the Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt comprises a cluster of offshore islands where penguins and other birds breed, their waters also frequented by marine mammals.

Wayne Bernhardson
About the Expert

Wayne Bernhardson is the author of Moon Handbooks to Argentina, Buenos Aires (including coastal Uruguay), Chile (including Easter Island), and Patagonia (including the Falkland Islands).

view full overview

Wayne Bernhardson for Triporati

Compare Flight, Car Rental, and Hotel Rates

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Note: A new window will open for each site you select.

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Capital of the Coquimbo Region, northern Chile
  • Language: Spanish
  • Currency: Chilean Peso
  • Research: Wikipedia

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Year round, with the busiest times in summer, December-February. March and April are nice because it's cooler and quieter then.