From Caldera, Ryan and I took a bus down to La Serena, which means “serene” in English. I liked La Serena right from the start. It is a charming, well-organized city with beautiful colonial architecture, a metropolitan downtown, and a long, golden beach. However, just like most beach towns in Chile in June, it was sleeeeeeepy. Apparently the place triples in population during the summer months of December, January, and February. But in late June, just about every apartment had a “For rent” or “For sale” sign in the window, especially in the buildings along the coast.
If you look up the top 10 things to do in La Serena, most of them aren’t even in the city. Instead, daylong or overnight trips into Valle del Elqui or out to Isla Damas are recommended. That said, aside from perusing the city on foot or bike to check out its pretty buildings and beaches, there are few tourist attractions in La Serena.
We did spend a couple hours strolling El Parque Japonése Jardín del Corazón, a beautiful, quiet, Japanese-inspired garden. It was definitely worth a visit. We also wasted an afternoon in Coquimbo (about 11 km southwest of La Serena) in search of a restaurant that wasn’t open (along with most other restaurants there). If we thought that La Serena was sleepy, Coquimbo was flat out dead.
Because we were in La Serena on a Saturday, we tried to have a fun night out. We saw a sign for a Guns N’ Roses cover band called “Sweet Rose” that was going to be performing at a club/restaurant on Avenida del Mar. Considering my love for all things 80s, I really wanted to go. When we arrived at the venue, we realized that it was a sit-down dinner show. What?!? What would compel anyone to host a Guns N’Roses sit-down dinner show?! One MUST be able to dance to the music of GnR! We were also about half an hour late. But the band was actually pretty good, so we stayed. After the show ended, we went to another section of the restaurant and watched another band (also sitting down because the area was full of tables) play latin music. They were really good but the atmosphere was pretty lame, no one was dancing even though the music was cumbia and salsa.
Even though our days in La Serena were not very exciting, I liked the city quite a bit. It was easy to get around and learn the layout of the area. The beaches have tons of potential if it had been warm and sunny. It was pretty and clean. And I’m sure that in the summer it’s much more lively. I’d like to return and spend more time there in a few months.