Places to Visit in La Serena

La Serena is one of the favorite coast cities chosen by the people of Santiago to go on vacations during the summer months. It is only 6 hours from Santiago de Chile. In the months of December and February, it fills with tourists, which translates into an increase in rental prices and more crowded beaches.

Coquimbo Region in Phase 4 of Initial Opening. But, there are places that remain closed to the public, such as: The Japanese Garden, Pedro de Valdivia Park, La Recova, Las Iglesias and the Archaeological Museum.

This city is the capital of Coquimbo region and also serves as a strategic point to move around other tourist places in the region, such as: The Elqui Valley, known for its vineyards, pisco distilleries and clean night skies; The city of Coquimbo, with the Cruz del Tercer Milenio, the port and it’s nearby attractions, wonderful beaches and wetlands; La Higuera, where the Isla de Damas is located, which is part of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve and from where you can see various species of animals such as: penguins, sea lions and dolphins.

In both La Serena and Coquimbo, there are flowers of many types and colors that are with a lot of butterflies. Its inhabitants are friendly and helpful people. Its climate is quite changeable.The day can begin sunny, cloudy and stay like that all day, but don’t worry, if it’s cloudy, suddenly the sun may shine, and the sun with clouds you will get a beautiful sunset. In the afternoons you may need a jacket to protect you from the cold of the sea breeze.

the sun can come out suddenly. In the afternoons you may need a jacket to protect you from the cold of the sea breeze.

So, let’s talk about its history and main tourism attractions and all that this city has to offer to you.

Brief History of La Serena

The city of La Serena was founded in 1544 and re-founded in 1549; after being destroyed by the natives in a failed attempt to remove the Spaniards from their territories. It was also attacked and looted by pirates and English corsairs who, along with some earthquakes, caused serious damage to many of its original buildings.

It is the second oldest city in Chile. It is believed that it was built around a palm tree about 25 meters high, witnessing the re-founding of the city and that served as a reference to guide the travelers from the distance. If the legend is true, this palm tree would be more than 500 years old.

Palm tree of the Serena in Matta street

This palm tree is located between Manuel Antonio Matta and Diego de Almagro streets. Its base is over 1 meter wide and is on private property. However, it can be seen from the street or from a private parking lot on Calle Manuel Antonio Matta. From there, you can see some remains of what is believed to have been arrows stuck in the palm tree. You can see them as little lumps in the second image.

Initially the buildings in the city of La Serena were made of mud and straw. There were subsequent renovations due to reconstructions and the influence of foreign investors and architects that came with the mining boom. Later, in the 19th century, as part of the “Plan Serena”, neocolonial style buildings were incorporated.

This is why, when walking through its streets, it gives you the feeling of being in a distant time, a place where modern life passes between picturesque streets full of stories, memories and references to other times that leave the visitor speechless. Without a doubt, a trip back in time.

Now let’s talk about one of the icons of the city: El Faro de la Serena.

The Monumental Lighthouse of La Serena

This ornamental lighthouse is among the monuments of the Plan Serena. It was built by the Chilean Navy between 1950 and 1951 and was declared a National Monument in 2011. The Monumental Lighthouse of La Serena is one of the main attractions in the area. It is a very photogenic monument, especially at night and during sunrise and sunset. It is freely accessible, but is currently being restored.

Night photographs of the Lighthouse of La Serena

The Serena lighthouse is located in front of the sea, at the end of Avenida Francisco de Aguirre and at the beginning of the Avenida del Mar.

The Avenida Francisco de Aguirre, is an open-air museum where you can enjoy replicas of Italian sculptures and some original sculptures of Chilean artists. From there, you can access other nearby tourist attractions such as: the Japanese Garden, Pedro de Valdivia Park, the historic center of the city, the La Serena Mallplaza, among others.

On the other hand, if you decide to take Avenida del Mar, you can continue straight to Peñuelas and continue along Avenida Costanera to the Port of Coquimbo, passing by the El Culebrón Wetland or cross to Avenida 4 esquinas, at the end of which you can reach the Cerro Grande and contemplate the city from there.

The Avenida del Mar

The Avenida del Mar, is a very busy coastal walk during the summer. At night you can see people exercising enjoying the nightlife of the area. It has an extension of more than 4km from the Faro de la Serena to the Peñuelas sector. In this sector we can find a beach, the iconic La Serena sign and the beginning of the emblematic Avenida 4 Esquinas.

Sign of La Serena

Along Avenida del Mar you can find various accommodations, restaurants, ice cream parlors, nightclubs, skate rental places, surf schools, exercise spaces, green areas, playgrounds, among others. It also has a bike path that begins at the Faro de la Serena and that you can travel until you reach Coquimbo.

You should visit Avenida del Mar at sunset time and watch when the sun sets in the ocean or near the Cross of the Third Millennium. You can also observe birds that usually fly in this place, relax on the sand or just walk.

At the end of Avenida del Mar, begins the Avenida Costanera, from the commune of Coquimbo. At this point, the separations between the two cities are almost imperceptible, except for three milestones: the letters of La Serena, the letters of Coquimbo in front of the Enjoy Casino and a sign that could go unnoticed that says: “Welcome to Coquimbo”.

Thanks to this, you can take advantage of touring both avenues in their entirety, from the Faro de la Serena to the Puerto de Coquimbo. Once there, you can eat very cheap fish, sail on the Pirate Ships, stroll through the center of Coquimbo or walk to Fort Lambert for free.

The Mallplaza of la Serena

With its neocolonial facade, it was inaugurated in 1998 and, as you must have imagined, it was built as part of the Serena Plan. It is the largest shopping center in La Serena and has several shops, places to eat, a supermarket, a cinema, some free parking spaces and others are payed. It is very close to the La Serena bus terminal.

Mall of la Serena

It is a beautiful mall, recommended to enjoy with the family or alone. It is ideal for those who want to make purchases in brand stores.

If shopping is not your thing, you can also enjoy the green areas around the Mall, where you can see a beautiful 8-meter-high wood and iron sculpture that was made in 2019 in honor of Gabriela Mistral, Chilean writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature in 1945.

The Historic Center of La Serena

The Historic Center of La Serena was declared a typical area in 1981, due to its homogeneity and architectural importance of social historical reference. This sector has witnessed the pass of time and is filled with heritage history. The city of La Serena has 21 National Historic Monuments.

For this same reason, this place is a delight to behold and is delimited, approximately, by: Almagro Street, Pedro Pablo Muñoz Avenue and Vicuña and Zorrilla streets.

The first stop could be the Plaza de la Constitución or Plaza de Armas de La Serena, where you can breathe peace and enjoy the green areas where you can recreate while looking at the flowers, trees, birds and its central fountain.

On one side of the Plaza de Armas de La Serena is the Cathedral of La Serena. It is of neo-classical style, built from 1844 in the same place where the Matriz Temple or Parroquia El Sagrario used to be, built in 1558 of adobe and straw and which was demolished in 1841 for the construction of the current Cathedral. The Cathedral of La Serena, is the largest church in the city.

Many of the churches of La Serena were rebuilt in stone, to be more resistant, since their original structures of straw and mud were destroyed by the attacks of corsairs, pirates and indigenous people.

The city of La Serena is also known as the city of bell towers, because it has more than 29 churches. Some of them have had to disappear because they have not withstood the passage of time in good condition.

In the center of La Serena, there is “La Recova” which works as a sales center for handicrafts, souvenirs and typical food. Located where the old Municipal Market used to be. The first building was built in this place, between 1819 and 1844 and was rebuilt in 1981. In the surroundings of La Recova, you can find cheap clothes.

On the same street as La Recova, you can find the Archaeological Museum of La Serena, which is free to enter. It was built in 1943 within the framework of the Plan Serena and it has diverse pieces, in its majority, of the local culture. It also has a library with historical information about the area. For more information on the museum, you can visit these pages: General information, Collections y Fan Page.

La Serena Archaeological Museum hours: Tuesday to Friday: 9:30 a.m. at 5:50 p.m. Saturday: 11:00 a.m. at 5:00 p.m. Sunday and holidays: 11:00 a.m. at 2:00 p.m.

The Jardín Japonés of La Serena

The Japanese Park of La Serena was inaugurated in 1994 as a result of a collaboration between several mining companies from Chile and companies from Japan as part of the brotherhood agreement signed between La Serena and the town of Tenri in 1966.

The “Garden of the Heart” or Japanese Garden of the Serena is a contemplation park, that is, it is aimed to be promote a reflective and meditative state in order for the visitor to feel peace and is aware of the connection between him and his environment.

All elements in Japanese gardens are selected and incorporated with an intention and have a certain meaning.

Among its characteristic elements, this park has: a traditional Japanese bridge, a large rest house, small waterfalls, a lagoon, a cherry tree path, bamboo trellises, small islands, a stone garden and a bonsai display.

You can also enjoy the different animals that are inside, such as: ducks, black-necked swans, Koi fish and aquatic turtles.

In summary, it is a place where all the characteristic elements of a Japanese garden are combined, which make it a magical and wonderful place full of beautiful landscapes that provide the visitor with an excellent experience and the opportunity to take home beautiful photographs.

The cost of admission is 1000 chilean pesos for the general public, 300 chilean pesos for children and 500 chilean pesos for the elderly. You can check the schedules on the Facebook page of the Japanese Heart Garden Fan page of the Jardín Japonés del Corazón

Additional Information: There are some rules that can be read at the entrance, such as the entry of pets and the entry of food is not allowed. In case of entering with food, you must notify at the entrance to be able to eat in the place established for it.

Pedro de Valdivia Park

The Pedro de Valdivia Park was built as part of the Serena Plan around 1950. Pedro de Valdivia Park is a park with green areas, native trees, hiking trails and a small free zoo where you can be in contact with some of the animals that are there. It has sports and skating fields, barbecue areas and areas to ride a bicycle.

Sometimes events are held in this space, such as: fairs, exhibitions, festivals, among others.

The zoo has animals such as: chickens, sheep, ostriches, condors, llamas, goats among others. Many of these animals roam freely, so you can photograph them up close.

During my visit, I had the opportunity to take a selfie with a llama and then when I posted it, people told me that they can sometimes spit at people who approach them, so be careful if you do.

Pedro de Valdivia Park is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:00 a.m. at 5:00 p.m.

Author’s Comments

Most of the people who live in the Coquimbo Region are kind, helpful, greet people and do not have the stressed walk of the Santiago. Many of those who live here have been escaping from that overwhelming city life of the big cities and capitals.

The first time I came to the Region, I asked: but why do people come here since it is a semi-arid place and in the photos that I have seen I do not see a special charm? And the person answered me: it is like an energy that is here that catches you and that makes the region magical, you have to feel it to understand it.

So, from the first time I experienced this sensation, I kept returning to Coquimbo until, finally, I managed to leave the certainty of the city and the known and change it for the well-being of that something that grabs you from this place.

I invite you to take the time to explore the region, to let yourself fall in love and to talk with its inhabitants who have a lot to offer.

You can also read the other articles on the Coquimbo region and find the best place for you, according to your interests and needs. Although I recommend you visit them all. In the meantime, have a happy journey! Whatever kind of journey you’re having and that it takes you to a better place like me. Trust the circumstances and flow.

Until next time!

  • Sibyl Bonsignore
    Posted at 14:08h, 19 January Reply

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    • atravelphoto
      Posted at 11:46h, 30 January Reply

      Thank you! This is so nice!

      Regards and happy travelling!

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