La Serena

La Serena Serena, la bella. Chile. Iglesia Santo Domingo. by Bracani....Antonio

This article was written by Global Graduates, published on 24th June 2010 and has been read 3773 times.

City of Serenity Chile's second oldest city, La Serena, is the most important town of the Norte Chico strip. A colonial town that has seen Peruvians, Spaniards and British troops grace its streets, it is by far one of the prettiest cities in Chile. Reigning over the mystical and spiritual Valle del Elqui, it is affectionately known as pisco-land, for it is in this region that the nation's favourite drink is cultivated.
Why should I choose La Serena for my year abroad?
Although the town itself is not replete with things to do, the surrounding region also offers some pretty impressive valleys, with a few (would-be) astronomers able to get their kicks from the many world-famous observatories that abound - notably the Observatorio Mamaculla, where night tours are given to admire the dazzling display of stars to be seen here. The beaches here are a real treat - along the Avenida del Mar you'll spot many a sun-worshipper over the summer months (January to February). And if sand, stars and stunning streets aren't your thing, you can even get to befriend penguins here, with the Reserva Nacional Pingüino de Humboldt just a short ride away from the city centre. In the actual city centre, you'll look forward to strolling through its streets, taking in the pastel-coloured town houses and colonial architecture. The leafy Plaza de Armas, slap bang in the city centre, is a nice place to sit down and meet-up in, after galavanting around town.

Many churches populate this colonial haven, but if you're going to visit at least one of them, make sure it's the Iglesia San Francisco, being the oldest of them all, with its baroque style dating back to the 15th century. The Museo Arqueológico is a feat in itself - packed with information about the country's pre-Columbian past, with impressive moaiEaster Islands will be referred to time and time again, and it's no surprise seeing as they are but a stone's throw away from the mainland strip by plane, and the definition of anthropologist's dream - how did these surreal head-shaped statues get there, and more importantly, how were they carved?). 

La Serena is also famed for its crafts markets, where street-sellers will recount their travelling stories to anyone who'll pitch up and listen (some are worth the extra five minute convo, if only to know what beaches really have been left to nature's touch and not become an obvious tourist choice). Of the plenty on offer, you shouldn't miss out on an opportunity to barter over lapis lazuli and alpaca goods at La Recova.

If the inner city pollution is getting a bit too much for you, and the beach doesn't really cut the mustard with you on a particular day (who knows, suncream and glimmering coastline might not be your cup of tea), you should drop by the beautiful Parque Japonés Kokoro Niwa, for well-maintained gardens, a little bit of tranquility (you'll still overhear the highway...) and a bit of oriental flair for the exotic, water lilies and ponds included. In terms of restaurants and  eating places La Serena doesn't come off too shabby, with many places offering competitively priced menú del día (set lunches). Bomberos is, as the name suggests, related to the men in boiler suits, with the local fire brigade regularly meeting here to tuck into some good hearty food. If you head on up to the first floor, the curious might want to sneak a peek at the most famous of La Serena's firemen, or check out the British made engine found in the basement. The local speciality, cazuela, a sort of chicken stew traditionally served up in Chilean homes, is at its best in the markets. If you fancy something oriental, there are a few Chinese eateries across the town to pick from. A few cutesy cafés populate the streets, where you can enjoy an espresso and watch the world go by.

As for the drinkers amongst you, La Taberna combines both casual drinking with alternative live music nights. Students usually head to Talcuba for some cheaper than cheap cocktails, beer promotions and popular rock tunes. statues (the Nightclubs are usually found across the beach strip, lights and sounds making themselves notices especially during the summer months. If you fancy a town that looks as good as it feels, La Serena is the place for you - an equal amount of pretty town architecture to beautiful beaches, with a dash of nature thrown in for good measure; now that's a cocktail we'd all be paying whatever the price for!

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