La Serena is a charming town in Northern Chile. There is a lot to see and do nearby.
Buses leave several times every hour from Santiago de Chile to La Serena. The trip takes 7 - 8 hours. Companies include Pullman Bus, TurBus and Flota Barrios. Available are regular buses, semi-cama and the first class salon-cama. Prices vary greatly. You can see TurBus booking and timetables here.
LAN flies five times Sun-Fri and four times on Saturday from Santiago de Chile to La Serena. Flight duration is 1 hour and fully flexible ticket cost US$168 one way, US$305 return; advance non-flexible return tickets through the website may be much cheaper than the flexible one way price. There are also daily flights from Antofagasta. On Saturdays there is one flight from Copiapó and Calama. Sky Airline [dead link] flies three times daily from Santiago de Chile and Antofagasta.
Buses leave several times every hour from La Serena to Valle del Elqui. The trip takes 1-2 hours. Ticket price: CLP$2000-3000 depending on where you go. They leave every hour from the bus station.
- In the Archeologigal Museum there is the only rapa nui moai head to have toured Europe. Entry CLP$600.
- The nearby observatory is also open to the public.
- If you are around in early Spring you might be lucky enough to see the desert in bloom. It happens in occasional years and is stunning.
- Elqui Valley, one of the most beautiful, clear and brilliant nights you will ever see. Here you will find the main villages that you can easily do on a bike. Vicuña, where Gabriela Mistral was born, and where you can get to see how the Chilean Pisco is made. Pisco Elqui, which is ideal for a romantic escapade and Cochiguaz.
- Isla DamasOn Isla Damas, you can swim, walk along trails and to lookout points or go scuba diving and snorkeling. Once back on the mainland, stay the night at Punta de Choros, where cabins and campsites will allow you to enjoy warm seaside evenings.
- Parque Nacional Fray Jorge (You can enter the Fray Jorge National Park from the South by taking the North Pan-American highway to mile 241.7, and then taking a long side road to the West for 13.6 miles up to the main Park’s gate. This is a dirt road, but in good conditions year round.The best time to visit is on weekends from late October to November, during the entire flowering period. It will take you at least 4 hours to visit.). January-February: daily 09:00-17:00, the rest of the year daily 09:00-16:00. Fray Jorge National Park Nacional comprises acres at altitudes of between and 2188 in the coastal area located miles east from most beautiful places to visit are Hydrophilic trail is very mouth river. There are picnic area and campsites for CLP$8,000 per night, and a lodge for 5 persons is CLP$25,000. Domestic animals are not allowed. Bring a coat since the forest is cold. The admission ticket is CLP$1,600, children CLP$600.
- The japanese style (indeed, laid out by a Tokyo landscape architect) garden Jardin del Corazon is just west of the center. It celebrates the 450th anniversary of La Serena, its ties with its Japanese friend Tenri and the export of Chilean ore to Japan. Plenty of ducks and geese in the pond, some fish and the odd turtle. Entry CLP$2000.
- Beaches - La Serena has some of the country's longest stretches of beach. You can take a whole day walking from one end to another.
- Observatory tours. The Elqui Valley outside La Serena has some of the best conditions for observing the sky, hence the many observatories, some open to the public doing tours from La Serena city at night. Tour prices including transport are about CLP$15000.
- Observatorio Mamalluca, Calle Gabriela Mistral 260, oficina 1, Ilustre Municipalidad de Vicuña, ☏ , , ✉ email@example.com. CLP$3500 for adults and CLP$1500 for kids from 3 to 12. Transportation (optional) CLP$1500..
- Observatorio La Silla, ESO, Casilla 567, El Santo, 1538, ☏ , (booking), fax: , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tololo, CTIO, Casilla 603, Colina El Pino s/n, ☏ , fax: .
- There is a cinema at the Mall Plaza, by the bus terminal
- There is a casino at Av. El Mar
- Whale Watching Chile, La Serena, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 7AM-6PM. Take a whale watching tour to a fishing village community and observe whales, dolphins, birds, penguins and other sea life.
- Papaya Juice - Sold all over the city but especially at markets, the papaya is grown locally here
- Pisco - The national drink of Chile is brewed in the nearby Elqui Valley and is a must-try for every traveller, enjoyed either as a Pisco Sour (Pisco with limon juice, sugar, and egg-white) or Piscola (Pisco with Coke)
- Handicraft - Nice handicraft markets are held every summer
The densest cluster of restaurants and fast food joints is around the intersection of O`Higgins and Eduardo de la Barra.
- Daniella II, Av. Francisco de Aguirre. A set lunch may only set you back, 1500 CLP ($3 USD), you might find it's not worth it. This goes for home-made food, and not getting all sick.
- Casona Dell 900, Av. Francisco de Aguirre. Has great BBQ meats served on a coal heated plate
- Ayawasi, Pedro Pablo Muñoz 566, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Organic and mostly vegetarian cafe. Charming atmosphere, very friendly English-speaking owner, and amazing food. Great for soup and a sandwich at lunchtime or coffee drinks by the fire on a rainy day.
Loads of bars near the intersection of O`Higgins and Eduardo de la Barra. At least a couple of them will be busy even on a Monday night thanks to the town`s students.
There are loads of options in the town. The area from the bus station throughout the center has at least one hostal on every block, and many fancier options, including package tour hotels along the beach.
- 1 Hostal El Punto, Andres Bello 979 (Close to the center of La Serena, less than 5 minutes walking from the bus terminal), ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. 07:00 - 24:00. Check-in: 13:00, check-out: 11:00. Rich breakfast included, friendly and helpful staff, big backyard with quiet corners, cafetería service during the day, storage room, various room types (from dormitory to suite with private balcony or rooms with shared bathroom), reasonable prices, possibility to make tour reservations, wifi included, book exchange and lending, laundry service, car and bike rental, service corner with fridge, microwave and electric kettle, parking space Bed in dormitory (mixed, 4 beds in total) for CLP$10,000, Double room from CLP$21,000.
- Hostal Maria Casa, Las Rojas N°18 (just 3 minutes walking from the bus station), ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Has excellent rooms with shared (always clean)bathrooms and kitchen, the possibility to make your own sandals thanks to Pancho (but at least one traveller reports unwanted advances from him, so young women may want to keep this in mind) and his workshop, a great variety of tours, organized by themselves, and the best is the assistance they give to passengers, they really make you feel at home, so don't hesitate in asking them for whatever you may need. dorms from US$20 (low season).
- Residencial Jofré, Regimiento Coquimbo, Central La Serena. Has excellent rooms with private bathrooms, hot water, shared kitchen facilities, TV room and free internet. US$23/double..
- Aji Verde Hostel, Vicuña 415. Nice hostel neart the market. Member of HI get 10% discount. Staff helpful, good kitchen, living room and terraza. Breakfast and internet included. dorms from CLP$7500.
- Hostal El Arbol, Eduardo de la Barra #29, ☏ , ✉ email@example.com. Peaceful hostel in a quiet neighborhood next to the Japanese gardens. Walking distance to Lider and downtown.
- A few hours to the south is Fray Jorge National Park.
- At Isla Damas it is worth seeing the penguins and sea lions. From La Serena it is 120 km north at a coastal village called Los Choros. Dolphins also frequent the area.
- The Valle de Elqui is a beautiful valley in the otherwise arid region. Equestrian tours are available that climb into hills going in among the papaya farms and looking down on valley. Taste some pisco sour at a distillery and stay the night.