The title of my article is pure poetry, I am inspired these days 😊La Serena has much to see, the city is quite attractive for tourists and I would say that it’s pleasant to live also, it has about 200,000 inhabitants, so one of the largest cities in the entire country. The city is located on the Pacific, its symbol is an immense sandy beach and the Monumental Lighthouse (it’s called like this, and yes it’s huge) on the beach, which makes the city very movie-like. We were very happy walking barefoot on the beach, enjoying our Chilean life. In Croatia we don’t have sandy beaches, so the enthusiasm was great. So, for lovers of the beach and sea sports, I think that the Coquimbo region is almost a paradise.
There are also small islands in the vicinity (for example, Isla Damas) that you can go to visit and where you can see various animals, such as penguins, otters, dolphins … There are so many things to do, but we dedicate a whole day to going to Elqui Valley so we didn’t have time for the islands. It will be the next time. And remembering that I said that three days is enough, it’s not true, I was lying.
Well, something more about La Serena, which is not only beach and sand, although I could spend a whole day on the beach watching the waves and strolling there, eventually having a coffee with a view of the Pacific. The city center preserves some very beautiful buildings and in general a very neocolonial architecture, which makes you want to walk more and more through the city.
If you get bored of that beautiful architecture and good food, you can always go to the Japanese park of La Serena, officially called El Parque Jardín del Corazón.
It’s a very nice, large and quiet space, as Japanese parks tend to be. The entrance fee is symbolic, and it is really worth going.
In La Serena you eat quite well, as in the whole country, so that was not a surprise. If you are in a hurry, you can go eat a completo or churrasco on the first floor of the Recova market. If you want a whole menu, you can have it in any of the restaurants in the city center, it’s almost impossible to fail that mission.
If you by any case eat too much, you can always go burn those calories and go up a bit to something that I think was a fortress before and where there are now the military forces, but they let us in without asking. From there you can have a nice view and it’s interesting to change the perspective a bit.
To finish with the theme of La Serena I give you a couple of more details. We were staying in an excellent hostel, very nice, and I think it was one of my favorite hostels where I stayed. With a large and ornate yard, full of colors, where you can eat breakfast or have a coffee. The hostel directly helps the person to be in a good mood when they get up and start their day. Very well done.
By the way, the people in La Serena, as in the entire region, are very friendly, really. The only negative that I am going to highlight is the stray dogs, just like in so many other coastal cities around the world. It’s a problem that apparently does not matter much to the people or the authorities. But the truth is that walking around the city after sunset can be a bit unpleasant because there are like 5 dogs following you. Chileans are used to it and treat them like old friends, but it must be recognized that these dogs are homeless and could be sick and, therefore, even dangerous for people.
Now, I will tell you a little bit about Coquimbo, a city from which we didn’t expect anything special, but in the end, we realized that there are some details that make it quite peculiar and unique in Chile. For example, there is a spot on the coast where sea lions are just lying in the sun and doing nothing, which seems to be the whole purpose of their life. You can get close, but not very close to them, you have to leave them their space they chose to have peace. Nor should you give them food, since they are perfectly capable of going hunting. The only thing we can do is observe these big and very friendly animals from a respectful distance while they are enjoying life. One of the things that I like the most about Chile is that, the fact of having the not so common animals there on the street, or in a corner or place that they chose to be. I have never been to a zoo nor do I plan to go, it’s something that doesn’t make any sense, but having the privilege of seeing wild animals in their natural habitat is something that I find impressive.
In addition to the city’s pets, Coquimbo has another peculiarity. When entering the city on one of the hills there was a giant cross. Well, nothing to say, Latin America is still one of the regions of the world where there are more Catholics, although every day fewer practical Catholics, but what really surprised us was what we saw on the other hill. We saw a building whose architectural style seemed quite… exotic considering the area, we could put it that way. And my friend said look it’s a mosque. I made fun of him right away, because how a small city in the north of Chile it was going to have a mosque in one of the most prominent parts of the city? That is impossible. And so, we discussed a few minutes, and I went to google it, and indeed, to my great surprise, it was a mosque. I had thousands of questions in my head, where did Muslims come to Chile from? What is that? Since when does Chile have an Islamic legacy? And I am extra hyper curious even nosy sometimes, why didn’t I know about that? But, reading a bit more, I realized that it was a huge project that was going to show the unity of religions in a single city, putting symbols of those religions on each of the hills around the city. In the end, due to lack of money, only the mosque and the cross were made, nothing more, the mosque being financed by the King of Morocco. Mystery solved. Obviously, the three of us were very curious and we decided to go up to the mosque to visit it and investigate a little bit more. When I got there, already used to putting the veil on when entering, I began to put it on and take off my shoes, and at that moment the man who works there laughed and said “No need, we don’t do that here, come in please, with shoes and bare hair.” I laughed thinking how Latin culture had an influence on Islamic customs in South America. Guess it’s the region where people put less clothes in the whole planet. The man was very happy to have visitors and explained to us everything we wanted to know, among other things he told us that only for the most important dates they have a maximum of 20 to 30 people who come to pray, but if not, almost no one comes. Of course, as I was saying in the first place, in Chile there are really no Muslims. It was a very good experience to visit that place, the mosque is quite beautiful, so I recommend going.
The neighborhood that surrounds it doesn’t seem to be the safest in the world, so be discreet and do not look around much or take photos (as I did, I told you I’m nosy), it’s my recommendation.
That was all from me. Coquimbo is not as interesting and beautiful as La Serena, but it has its peculiarities, and it’s nice to go see. If you can, to visit that region you should take a week to see everything, including La Serena, Coquimbo, Valle del Elqui and the islands. Of course, it all depends on your preferences. For my part, if one day I return to Chile, I would like to go to the Coquimbo region again, because it brings back good memories.