Coquimbo: Pirate legends and nightlife
Just 12 kilometers away from La Serena, this port city still whispers the stories of corsairs wreaking havoc throughout the region in the 16th and 17th centuries, including Sir Francis Drake himself. Coquimbo certainly has a tale to tell.
Thursday, July 23, 2009
Coquimbo boasts South America's tallest monument, the Third Millennium Cross. The city's Mohammed VI mosque also provides a multicultural backdrop for the regional capital.
The city's streets have always shown the influence of different cultures. Fuerte Coquimbo and the Domo showcase vestiges of the Ánimas culture, the area's pre-Hispanic inhabitants. The British appeared centuries later, first with the famous corsairs disembarking at Coquimbo; Sir Francis Drake in 1579, Bartholomew Sharpe in 1680 and Edward Davis in 1686. The buccaneer days marked the birth of several legends: one of these affirms that Drake left buried treasure at La Herradura beach.
The creation of Barrio Inglés (the British quarter) is another legacy of the British in Coquimbo, featuring 19th century two-story manor houses near the port. This is a must see for city visitors, a performing arts center with restaurants, casino and pubs established in old dwellings. Young people have made this neighborhood their favorite meeting place and weekend party scene.
The fishermen's market is located on Avenida Costanera, featuring an eye-catching variety of small restaurants or cebicherías offering fish marinated in lemon juice, and simple restaurants where the day's menu is announced out loud to passers-by. Don't miss the churrasco marino, the region's flagship sandwich, fried fish served in a bun. Boat excursions leave from this point of the port to Punta Pelícanos, passing by Punta Tortuga lighthouse, Islote Pájaro Niño and Isla de los Lobos.
The most popular and well-known beach is called La Herradura, a peaceful bay with beautiful sand. The border between La Serena and Coquimbo is home to Peñuelas, a beach which has become a fisherman's wharf. The city's casino and horse racing track are just up from this beach, as well as dozens of restaurants featuring local specialties. South of the city the visitors will find some of the best resorts and beaches of Chile such as Tongoy (Socos beach), Guanaqueros, Playa Blanca, Morrillos, Totoralillo and Las Tacas, among others.
The Third Millennium Cross
Coquimbo's pride and joy, the cross was erected as a symbol of Catholic Jubilee 2000 on the city's highest hill. The city's inhabitants donated cement for a 103-meter structure, the tallest monument in South America. The structure features three levels. The first is a worship area with a large chapel, museum and a photo exhibit indicating early construction on the monument. The second level houses a square with ten columns representing the Ten Commandments, together with a replica of Michelangelo's La Pietà. The last floor features viewing platforms twenty and seventy meters up, one of the best places to find a truly impressive view of the bay. Calle Juan Pablo II, no number, the upper section. Phone: (051)-327935.
Mohammed VI Cultural Center
This is a scale replica of the Koutubia Mosque in Morocco. It was built using stone masonry, gray, white and pink marble, and a 36 meter tower or minaret. The mosque features prayer rooms, a library, a museum and a square. Free admission. Los Granados 500, Villa Dominante. Phone: (051)-310440.