Torres del Paine National Park

Tourist places in La Serena, Chile

Image: Hoteles Campanario
La Serena, the capital of the Coquimbo Region, is one of the most important tourist destinations in Chile. Its historic center is notable for its well-preserved neocolonial buildings with balconies, charming plazas, centuries-old stone churches, and a long stretch of inviting sandy beaches.

The city, belonging to the Province of Elqui, was founded in 1544, and is the second oldest in Chile, after Santiago, the national capital. La Serena constitutes part of a conurbation with the neighboring port city of Coquimbo, totaling a population of more than 506,000 inhabitants, according to the 2017 Census, which places it as the fourth most important urban area in the country.

Colonial architecture, La Serena, Chile
Neo-colonial architecture of La Serena
The city is an important tourist center, especially in the Summer, when people make it one of the most recognized destinations for vacation in Chile, mainly for its beaches, architecture, green areas and gastronomy, in this field, the city is famous for the production of papaya and by-products. 

During the rest of the year, its activity is focused on being a place of university studies, because here is located the main campus of the Universidad de La Serena and several other private universities. In addition to being the regional economic capital, the city is home to the Archdiocese of La Serena, one of the five Catholic Archdioceses of Chile. 

In this post, we tell you about some of the attractions you can enjoy in La Serena, from its colonial architecture to museums and astronomical observatories.


How to Get There

 By Air: "Aerodromo La Florida" is a modern air terminal that serves La Serena and surrounding communes. It is located six kilometers East of the city. The airport is recognized in Chile because from this place, in 1951 departed the first flight to Easter Island. Currently, the most important domestic flights to and from this terminal are Santiago and Antofagasta.

Since the end of 2018, the air terminal has the character of International, with seasonal flights to cities in Argentina by JetSmart low cost airline.
The airlines currently operating at this airport are LATAM Airlines, Sky Airline and JetSmart.

Bus Terminal:  Address: 107 Amunategui Ave. The bus station is one of the largest in northern Chile, located in an urban sector, close to many accommodations and shopping centers. There are numerous companies operating in La Serena Bus Terminal which connect with Santiago and the main cities, especially of Northern Chile. Among others can be mentioned Buses PlussChile, Expreso Norte, Buses Romani, Pullman Bus, Serena Mar, Buses Palacios, Atacama Vip, Condor Bus, Buses Libac, Buses Los Corsarios, Buses Nueva Andimar Vip.


Tourist Attractions in La Serena:

Tour along Avenida del Mar 

A view of Avenida del Mar, La Serena, Chile.
  A stroll along Avenida del Mar is one of the typical walks in La Serena, the waterfront begins at the iconic Faro Monumental (Monumental Lighthouse), at the north end of the city and runs through the extensive beaches. 

The avenue borders the Pacific Ocean and offers a spectacular view of the beach, the monumental lighthouse and the apartment buildings that rise above the sand. On a tour along the Avenue you can also appreciate the natural beauty of the coast, the quiet and family atmosphere, and the variety of gastronomic, recreational and cultural services that are found along its four kilometers of extension.  To add extra fun, along the Avenida del Mar you will find electric scooters, bicycles and skateboards for rent, among others. No matter how old you are, here you have the option to tour the waterfront with one of them.

"La Recova" Municipal Market

Address: #370, Cienfuegos st.
La Recova market is a historical and cultural place in the city of La Serena. It was founded in 1795, characterized by its colonial architecture with arches. In its more than 100 stores you can find a wide variety of handicraft products, such as lapis lazuli jewelry, pottery from the Diaguita culture, papaya jam and goat cheese. 

You can also enjoy the typical regional gastronomy in the restaurants of the second floor. La Recova is the heart of La Serena and a must for tourists who want to learn about the history, culture and flavors of the city.


Faro Monumental 

La Serena, Faro Monumental (La Serena's Monumental Lighthouse).
Lighthouse built between 1950 and 1951 by the Chilean Navy according to the design of the civil engineer of the University of Chile, Mr. Jorge Cisternas Larenas, part of La Serena program, carried out by President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla.

The Monumental Lighthouse because of its location, dimensions, architectural line, great urban and tourist value constitutes an emblematic element of the city. The construction is located at the intersection of Francisco de Aguirre and Avenida del Mar.

Biblioteca Regional Gabriela Mistral 

Address: #782 Juan José Latorre st.
The Gabriela Mistral Regional Library is an important cultural center and landmark in La Serena. It is named after the renowned Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral, who was the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1945. The collection is housed in a modern building adjacent to the "Casa de Las Palmeras", today a historic monument, house that was owned by the Chilean poet, now connected to the main building. 

Its central location renders it highly accessible to both residents and visitors alike, and its active role in promoting literature and culture enhances its prominence within the city of La Serena.

The library houses an extensive collection of books, magazines, and audiovisual resources, with a special focus on Chilean and Latin American literature. In addition to being a space for research and study, the library also organizes cultural events, lectures, exhibitions, and workshops that promote reading and culture within the community.
Address: 782 Juan José Latorre st.

"Jardin del Corazon" Park

Address: #336, Eduardo de la Barra st. 
Also known as Parque Japones, it was built thanks to the contribution of several mining companies of Chile and Japan in order to represent a typical Japanese landscape, as part of the brotherhood agreement signed by the commune of La Serena with the Japanese city of Tenri in 1966. It has several plant and animal species from that country, being the largest Japanese park in South America. It was inaugurated in 1994, for the celebration of the 450th anniversary of the city.

Within its 26 thousand square meters of area,  the park features several attractions, including a Cherry blossom path, Bamboo trellises, a stone garden, a jetty in the artificial lagoon, a traditional Japanese bridge, cascades and small forests. You can also watch various species of Swans, Ducks and Goldfish. 

Discover "The City of Bell Towers"

Before the current boom in tourism and beaches, La Serena was known as La Ciudad de Los Campanarios ("The City of Bell Towers"), due to the large number of churches that can be found throughout the city. So, if you like to explore the place in more detail, another activity to do in La Serena is to visit the churches located in its historic center.

Some landmarks of this route are the Cathedral of La Serena, San Francisco and San Agustin churches, the latter dating from almost 500 years ago. Some of the bell towers of these constructions are very high, so they stand out in the urban landscape and can be seen from a great distance.

Avenida Francisco de Aguirre

Its name comes from the Spanish captain who refounded the city in 1549 after an uprising by the local natives that resulted in the death of virtually all the Spaniards. 

The current Avenue runs from Balmaceda st. with its Portada de Marmol (Marble Arch), donated in 1910, to the Faro Monumental. Also known as Museo al Aire Libre (Open Air Museum) or Paseo de las Estatuas (Statues Promenade), Avenida Francisco de Aguirre began as a public walk in 1855 when Poplars, Acacias and Oriental Plane trees were planted. Between 1946 and 1952, under the government of former President Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, born in this city,  were donated the Carrara Marble statues that embellish the place, replicas of famous sculptures, brought from Italy.

Museums in La Serena 

Museo Arqueologico, address: on the corner of Cordovez and Cienfuegos streets. Archaeology, Ethnography and Paleontology sections as well as a Bioanthropology Collection. With important archaeological compilation of the Molle and Diaguita cultures. It also houses a magnificent Moai of the Rapa Nui culture in the gallery reserved to Easter Island, donated to the city by the Rapa Nui Council of Elders in 1952, after the first flight between mainland Chile and the island.
Museo Mineralogico Ignacio Domeyko, Museum of mineralogy with pieces from Chile and different parts of the world located at 980 Benavente St., at the Mining Engineering Department of the Universidad de la Serena. The gallery was founded in 1887, when the Escuela de Minas was created. Remodeled in 2007, today it is very popular with tourists. Its collections of more than 7,000 pieces include fossils, parts of meteorites found in different parts of the country, Brazilian and African diamonds, rubies from India, lapis lazuli gems, the silver rosicler stone from the Chañarcillo mine, jewelry, gemstones and minerals from the area.
Museo Historico Gabriel Gonzalez Videla, historical museum, location 495 Matta St. in the heart of the city. Its name pays tribute to a former president of Chile, a native of La Serena. The building was bought in 1977 by the State of Chile and declared a National Monument in 1981. It is one of the most visited galleries in the city, its collection consists of more than 3,500 pieces, including contemporary Chilean paintings and elements of regional history, furniture, important objects, documents and historical photographs.
Domo Cultura Animas, address: Gabriela Mistral Square, very close to the main Square in the neighboring city of Coquimbo, approximately 15 km. from downtown La Serena. It is a small glass structure whose vault contains the replica of 3 out of 36 tombs found in the area during excavations in 1981. These remains belong to the Animas culture, precursor of the Diaguita culture that inhabited this part of northern Chile between 900 and 1200 AD. Cultural events and exhibitions of local artists are also held here.
Museo de Arte Religioso, museum of religious art in front of the Plaza de Armas, next to the city's Cathedral. A very popular place for tourists, with pieces of great historical value, paintings and liturgical elements.
Museo de Arte Colonial, address: Balmaceda Ave. at the corner of Eduardo de la Barra, next to San Francisco Church. With more than one hundred pieces of art, most of them belonging to the Cusquenian culture, divided between the two levels of the gallery. Some of the highlights are the images of veneration carved in polychrome wood, objects used in the church and a representation of the face of the Nobel Prize for Literature Gabriela Mistral, a native of this region, who was very close to the Franciscan congregation. Vestments of bishops and cardinals, objects of domestic use but of great emotional value for the religious congregation.

Valle de Elqui 

Elqui Valley, is a river basin located in the Province of Elqui, Coquimbo Region, one of the favorite destinations by nature lovers and those looking for a different relaxation experience. Each of the tourist places along the Elqui Valley Route is a must-see, from the beginning departing from La Serena.
As for the local industry, the Pisco Processing Plants, play a very important role and you can learn in person the processes of  this liquor, taste and buy the best brands. Just 30 minutes from La Serena, tourists can go to small towns such as El Molle and Vicuña, with a wide variety of tourist offer.


Astronomy Tours 

Astrotourism in Valle de Elqui.
Image: European Southern Observatory, Chile
According to statistics, more than three hundred clear nights per year have made the Coquimbo region an obligatory destination for those who enjoy astrotourism. The view of the sky at night is impressive, which is taken advantage of by the numerous observatories installed in the Elqui Valley, either of scientific or tourist character. In Elqui there are many tours that can be made, because here are concentrated 50 percent of the private observatories.

Isla Damas Tour 

Another of the most popular tourist destinations departing from La Serena and available in most of the local Tourism Agencies. Isla Damas is one of the three islands part of the Pinguino de Humboldt National Reserve, at the northern end of the Coquimbo Region, La Higuera Commune, Elqui Province. Of the three islands that make up the Reserve, Damas is the only one that can be visited, the others are Choros and Chañaral. It has an area of 60.3 hectares and its name "Damas" (Ladies), is due to a curious rock formation, which becomes more visible as you approach it from the pier of Punta de Choros. The rock resembles the profile of a woman leaning against the island.  

There are two beaches, La Poza and Las Tijeras, of white sand and emerald green waters. Damas has a 1800 meters trail and 9 stations with information on flora and fauna in Spanish and English. Pinguino de Humboldt National Reserve is part of the National System of Protected Wild Areas of the State of Chile, administered by CONAF, National Forest Corporation.

Among the seabirds that nest on the numerous cliffs, rocks and beaches of the island are the Humboldt Penguin, Cormorants, Piqueros (Chilean Gannet), Red-legged Cormorants and many others. The rest of the marine fauna is mainly composed of sea otters, seals, bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales, whales.