La Serena is a beach resort about 7 hours north of Santiago. We arrived early on Tuesday morning from an overnight bus from Antofogasta - the bus was actually hot, quite a surprise to us as we had grown accustomed to wearing lots of layers and snuggling into a sleeping bag for the freezing overnight buses in Bolivia. We found a hostel with great cooking facilities so found ourselves a supermarket and cooked our own food for dinner - made a lovely change from eating out for the last 5 weeks. La Serena itself is a really nice city, with a huge beach (though sadly not really beach weather!).We took a daytrip out to the Elqui Valley, a valley that runs inland from La Serena. The climate there is perfect for agriculture, so we saw lots of papaya, chirimoya, celery, potatoe, prickly pear and other fruit and veg farms.
Elqui valley - lots of vineyards everywhere
Further inland the valley gets taken over by vineyards, for eating grapes as well as grapes for wine and pisco - the local spirit a type of grape brandy. We visited a couple towns in the valley including the birth place of the poet Gabriel Mistral (the first south american woman to receive the nobel prize for literature). Also visited two pisco distilleries - the first was the huge industrial Capel one, where they make 20,000 bottles of pisco an hour, only 5% of which leaves Chile (they really like their pisco here!!) and the second, the first distillery set up in the valley where they still make Pisco by hand. We of course sampled some of their products...