The name Coquimbo is derived from a native Diaguita word meaning 'place of calm waters'. Charles Darwin noted that the town was 'remarkable for nothing but its extreme quietness'. Since then, Coquimbo has developed into a bustling port and the region's major commercial and industrial centre from which minerals, fish products and fruits are exported. Used during the colonial period as a port for La Serena, Coquimbo attracted attention from English pirates, including Sir Francis Drake, who visited in 1578.
Today you have several options: a half day visit to the Elqui Valley, a visit to the Tabalí Vineyard, discovery of the nearby town La Serena or a longer visit to the Limarí Valley.
For the excursion into the Elqui valley you follow the coast going north. The Elqui valley is an important agricultural area producing papayas, olives, pears and custard apples. This is also where muscatel grapes are turned into Pisco.
You will visit a small artisan village where at a workshop you will have the opportunity to buy handmade crafts featuring stunning Diaguita designs and iconography. Afterwards you will be driven to Vicuña, famous for its many Pisco distilleries and home to Chilean’s Nobel Prize winner for Literature, Gabriela Mistral. Visit the Plaza and the Bauer Tower and there will be time to explore independently before returning to Coquimbo and Silver Cloud.
Another half day visit can be made to the seaside resort of La Serena featuring an interesting historical centre where buildings from three different architectural periods can be observed. There’s also an open-air museum with statues.
A full day excursion will take you into the Limarí Valley slightly further south, known for its pictographs and petroglyphs of the El Molle culture. Visit the Enchanted Valley in the vicinity of the town of Ovalle. The Elqui and Limarí valleys are rich and fertile transversal valleys running across the coastal mountains. Grapes are cultivated for export and for wine production: you will tour the Tabalí winery, famed for its unique coupages and blends of wine stocks such as Viognier, Sangiovese and Carmenere, and of course a tasting of its most representative wines is included. Continue to a restaurant for a traditional Chilean lunch of empanadas and an asado (a BBQ), before returning to the pier.
This excursion can also be taken as a half day tour without including the lunch.