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On a South America cruise, you need to experience the serenity of La Serena for yourself. Home to 29 historic churches, incredible beaches, and endless testaments to the enduring history of Chile, you’ll quickly come to understand this city’s significance when you cruise to La Serena. Cruise ships dock in the neighboring town of Coquimbo, which is a quaint area in its own right. While you’re in La Serena, explore the historic Plaza de Armas and walk among centuries-old buildings and protected sights. Water enthusiasts can sail or jet ski along La Herradura Beach.
More than a beachy getaway spot, a La Serena cruise will show you the cultural heart of Chile. Spend an afternoon at the Mamalluca Observatory or the Archaeological Museum. Head to the lighthouse on Playa el Faro, a 1950s landmark that has become an unforgettable symbol of the entire city. Stop for hot, hearty empanadas for lunch, and don’t forget to try Chile’s favorite regional dish, the pastel de choclo, a corn casserole. Wash it all down with a pisco sour, Chile’s signature cocktail.
Leave La Serena with new opinions and information about the universe and space when you visit Mamalluca Observatory. Enjoy a two-hour tour of the observatory, where you’ll discover a breathtaking 12-inch telescope that offers incredible views of moons, stars, and planets far beyond Earth.
Statues, fountains, and historic colonial buildings line the streets of La Serena’s landmark plaza, the Plaza de Armas. The plaza is nearly 500 years old and is a beautiful spot to walk around and photograph on the way to other museums and historic sights in La Serena.
While many of the beaches in this part of Chile can be too rough to swim in due to a strong rip current, La Herradura Beach is more enclosed by the bay, making it possible to enjoy a swim here without fighting the current too much. Pack your own picnic and make a day of swimming and sunbathing here.
Escape from the hustle of the city when you arrive in the Jardín del Corazón, a Japanese style garden in the heart of La Serena. There’s an entire bonsai collection to explore as well as greenhouses that make for the ideal afternoon stroll. Entry to the gardens are easy on the wallet, too.
Retail therapy at the area’s most famous market, the Mercado La Recova, is a great way to find souvenirs to bring back home as well as connect with local artisans about their craft. Grab a straw bag and shop like a local during your time in La Serena. The market is open Monday through Saturday and until the early afternoon on Sunday.
Learn how pisco is made at a pisco distillery, where you’ll be able to sip and sample the country’s drink of choice. The village of Pisco Elqui is easily reachable via car or bus and provides a beautiful look into the significance of pisco to the entire region. You can get there in less than two hours from La Serena.
La Serena Archaeological Museum is a must-experience attraction for Chilean history buffs. Pre-Columbian artifacts including pottery, mummified remains, and ancient art provide a glimpse into thousands of years of Chilean settlement.
On your La Serena cruise, you perhaps won’t see a more unique landmark than the lighthouse at Playa El Faro overlooking the Pacific Ocean, which offers true peace and relaxation. Climb to the top of the lighthouse for a dramatic view of the ocean. Keep your eyes peeled for entire groups of seals, who sometimes arrive to mate on the beach.
Food is taken very seriously in Chile, where some of the regional delicacies have become world renowned. Empanadas are a must-try during your time in Chile. Stuffed with meat or cheese, there’s no wrong kind of empanada. Pastel de choclo, a corn casserole with meat, is one of the traditional dishes of the region. Try a Chilean pisco sour, one of the area’s most famous beverages. Locally made ceviche from the coast promises to be both fresh and delicious. After a long day of walking and touring historic sights, nothing goes down easier than than a Chilean completo, which is like a hot dog.
La Serena is the capital of the Coquimbo region of Chile and the second-oldest city in the country. The city has been destroyed and rebuilt multiple times since the 16th century. La Serena also has a history of pirate attacks and ransacking during the colonial era. The discovery of silver and gold caused the town to boom. By the mid-20th century, La Serena began to unveil the “Plan Serena” for economic development and prosperity, and ever since, the city has grown into its own. Today, its beautiful beaches and historic sites make it a must-see Chilean town.
It’s less than a mile to get from the Coquimbo port to the center of La Serena. The Coquimbo port has few attractions for cruise passengers to see, so most visitors head into La Serena for the day.
Downtown Serena is fairly walkable, and taxis are available to get further distances. There are also car rentals available in this part of Chile. Buses offer another way to travel from city to city. When you arrive in the port of Coquimbo, many cruise passengers get to La Serena via taxi.
The best-known market in the city is called Mercado La Recova, located close to the city’s main plaza. Knickknacks and handmade treasures created by local artisans are standard fare at the Mercado La Recova. The market is open Monday through Saturday from 10am to 9pm, with limited hours on Sunday afternoons. La Serena also has its fair share of malls, including the Plaza La Serena, where you can find mid-range department stores, clothing, and jewelry.
You’ll use the Chilean peso (CH$) when on your La Serena cruise. ATMS are regularly available in the city as well. Haggling or bargaining at markets isn’t the norm here. The etiquette for leaving tips is 10% for restaurant servers and to round up to the next peso for taxi drivers. Tipping your independent tour guide, especially for an excellent experience, is highly recommended as many guides rely on tips as a primary type of wage.