The first time I visited La Serena, a midsize city on the coast in the Norte Chico of Chile, about six hours by bus from Santiago, I was wholly unimpressed. First of all, it was winter, and therefore very quiet. The main plaza was also wrapped in construction fences, the only internet cafe I could find had private booths (ick), and I had my arm in a sling.
At least one of these things was not La Serena’s fault, but I held her in low esteem anyway, and hadn’t been back in the past 8 years.
And then a dear friend moved to La Serena (booo), and invited four of his friends (including me) to come up and spend his cumpleaños postizo (fake birthday, a tradition I started a few years ago, since I’m often out of town for my actual birthday) with him.
So up we went, by plane and by bus, and we ate good food, bought an amazing, never-ending cake, wandered around, stayed up too late, and even went on a little trip (details to follow).
And I stand corrected. La Serena was homey, lovely, warmer than Santiago, and my arm was no longer in a post bike accident sling. All was good.
See for yourself:
Look mom, no sling!
In summary: La Serena, friends yes, middle eastern food, yes, lighthouse, yes, pretty, yes. Revisit? Yes.
Next time you need to take a tour to Isla Damas and see the dolphin colony. It is a nature reserve and it is not guaranteed to see dolphins, but if you see them (they are not allowed to feed them so they come only if they want to) they are really wonderful. And of course, visit the Elqui valley. A really magical place!
Also there are several very good restaurants in Avenida del Mar, where you can eat wonderful mariscos y pescados 🙂
We ended up having our main meal out in Guanaqueros (next post!), and ate very well. I have been to Valle de Elqui. I went there the last time I was there. And a pisco tour, and to see the petroglyphs at Valle del Encanto, and to Termas del Soco, and hitchhiked along the Panamerican highway. Fun times. I have not been to Isla Damas though, and will hopefully check that out the next time I am there in season. Thanks for the tip, Carlos!
Of course I forgot to mention Andacollo. A little town in the mountains with two beautiful churches. Definitively recommended, although it is closer to Ovalle than La Serena.
Ooooh, have never been there! Will have to put it on the list. My good friend will be there for some time and loves having guests, so I’m sure I’ll be up there again, soon.
I agree with Carlos’s comments. I’ve done those things and they’re worth it. I also bought aceite de oliva casero, pressed and bottled in someone’s home (yum), and some pecans from a street vendor in Valle del Elqui. Those pecans were the first, and only ones, I had ever seen in Chile until now.
Hey Sally! You can get pecans (in season) at the supermarket for 2990 the tiny pote, or go to Frutos del Pais, a tostaduria near Manuel Montt and get them in the shell for much less. I did buy some olives in La Serena, but I gave them away because I kind of forgot I was leaving for a month right after buying them. La Serena really does have good food products, though I’m not super wild about the carica (Chilean papaya) sweets they make there.
La Serena is very nice in winter I really like the peaceful and homey feeling it has.
Though I am sad to hear that you didn’t have good luck on your first trip over there, luckily this time you got to see what La Serena really has. I must say that Coquimbo also has a charm and I think that for sure you went over there and got some fresh see food at the market.
Anyways, I always read your blog (even before the Las ultimas noticias? event, not sure), you have a very good eye to get the details that are not so easy to see (and that make me homesick, and willing to go back home right away).
So thanks as usual
Thanks Eduardo, how sweet! Yes, I had a miserable time in La Serena the first time, but I can see now that it’s not really La Serena’s fault. Thanks for saying that about the eye for details. I love the details. You can keep your travel writing with grand pronouncements, I want to know what kind of shoes the woman next to you on the bus was wearing. Sorry to make you homesick! When will you be back?
Well I still have some years before I can definitely go home, but I will go back for 3 weeks in september, so that is keeping me very happy lately since it is very soon.
Thanks for the blog, I always keep an I on it (from far far away)