Chile's second-oldest city and the thriving capital of Región IV, La Serena is doubly blessed with some beautiful architecture and a long golden shoreline, making it a kind of thinking-person's beach resort. The city absorbs hoards of Chilean holidaymakers in January and February, though it is fairly peaceful outside the summer rush. Sauntering through downtown La Serena reveals dignified stone churches, tree-shaded avenues and some pretty plazas. Some of the city's architecture is from the colonial era, but most is actually neocolonial – the product of Serena-born president Gabriel González Videla's 'Plan Serena' of the late 1940s.
La Serena also has numerous attractions in the surrounding countryside, with pretty villages and pisco vineyards aplenty, as well as international astronomical observatories that take advantage of the region's exceptional atmospheric conditions and clear skies.