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Coquimbo, Chile

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'Founded in 1544 on a bluff just south of the Elqui River's entry into the Pacific, La Serena is Chile's second oldest city (the oldest is Santiago, established in 1541). Now home to some 150,000 inhabitants, it alone among the country's larger cities still sports more than just a few memories of Spanish architectural heritage, making it by far the most harmonious city in the entire country, though the dominant carmine-on-buff color scheme is a little heavy.

Chile was one of Spain's poorest, remotest colonies, limiting what could be spent on architecture, and much of what at first glance appears old in fact was built rather recently. La Serena fails to match the beauty of the colonial gems of the Andean countries, Mexico, or Cuba, but art fans will love the few, attractive Mannerist-style (late Renaissance) stone churches that survived the multiple pirate raids.'

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