Overview

500km north of Santiago, La Serena is Chile’s second-oldest city and a pleasant university town. Following the discovery of silver nearby in the 19th century the town’s prosperity saw the building of fine churches and mansions. It was given a colonial-style facelift in the 1940s and is now a resort town popular with Chilean holidaymakers. La Serena is a gateway to the Humboldt Reserve, with its offshore nesting colonies of Humboldt penguins, and an important area for whale watching in the summer months (Nov-March).

An hour inland of La Serena is another world completely. The Elqui valley is a gorgeous oasis where vivid carpets of green announce some of Chile's finest vineyards: wine is produced here, but first and foremost the Elqui valley is synonymous with the production of the nation's other favourite tipple, pisco. Quaint towns and villages such as Vicuña, Pisco Elqui and Alcoguaz lend local flavour, and the valley is also rich in pre-Columbian heritage. Because of the dry climate the sky here is particularly clear and there are two astronomical observatories open to visitors.

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Things to do

There is lots to see and do in La Serena and Elqui Valley, from exploring the beautiful scenery, to enjoying a spot of stargazing. Book now with Journey Latin America.

Where to go when - our guide to La Serena and Elqui Valley

Observatory La Serena

The weather in La Serena and Elqui Valley is wide and varied

The old university town of La Serena and the fertile oasis of the Elqui valley are renowned for their natural beauty and the unrivalled pisco produced in this region. A visit between October - March is the perfect time to see the lush landscapes in their full glory, with January and February receiving the most visitors. During these months there may be some short bursts of rain, but these are infrequent and most days remain clear and dry - perfect conditions for stargazing at the high-tech Mamalluca observatory. From May - August temperatures cool down and the days grow shorter. However, the pisco distilleries- or pisquerias - of the Elqui valley generally remain open for tours and pisco tasting year-round.

View our La Serena and Elqui Valley weather guide

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Meet our team

Real Latin american experts

  • Ben
    Ben Line - Travel Expert

    Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Head of Sales.

  • Heloise
    Heloise Buxton - Travel Expert

    Heloise started her Latin American journey as an exchange student in Santiago, Chile. With extended summer holidays this was the perfect opportunity to backpack through Bolivia, Peru, Argentina and Brazil.

  • Maggie
    Maggie Wilson - Travel Expert

    Maggie visited Latin America on her first backpacking trip when she was 19. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to travel, and has managed to explore a lot of the region in subsequent trips.

  • Sophie
    Sophie Barber - Travel Expert

    Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.

  • Sallly
    Sally Dodge - Travel Expert

    A former Journey Latin America tour leader, Sally spent 7 years working, travelling and living throughout Latin America before returning to the UK to help people arrange their own adventures to this wonderful destination.

  • Kathryn
    Kathryn Rhodes - Travel Expert

    Kathryn backpacked across Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Peru before joining us. She has a degree in Philosophy and French and is a keen netball player.

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