Steeped in history, Chile’s second-oldest city, La Serena, wears two distinct faces today. On one hand, it charms visitors with its European-style old quarter. On the other, it dazzles with a dash of modern pomp and convenience through its upmarket beachfront—a great place to indulge in sunshine and luxurious hotels and restaurants. The city’s location within easy striking distance of many top regional attractions makes it a good base to explore the budding astronomy, viticulture, and wildlife of El Norte Chico.
One of the most stunning features amid the pleasant streets and hidden plazas of La Serena is the number of churches: there are more than 30, and many date as far back as the late 16th century. Most have survived fires, earthquakes, and pirate attacks, all common threats in the turbulent decades after conquistador Pedro de Valdivia founded the city in 1544.
The preservation of colonial architecture, and its continuance, is thanks to Gabriel González Videla, who was president of Chile from 1946 to 1952. Take care of banking or medical needs in La Serena, as there are fewer services in other towns in the area.