West of Ovalle, the Panamericana turns towards the ocean and skirts a string of small resorts that provide a calmer and more attractive beach setting than the built-up coast at La Serena. Spread over a rocky peninsula studded with colourful houses, the busy port of COQUIMBO was established during colonial times to serve neighbouring La Serena and became Chile’s main copper exporter during the nineteenth century. Despite its impressive setting, the town has a slightly rough-edged, down-at-heel air, but is useful as an inexpensive base from which to enjoy La Serena’s beaches, or for taking public transport to the nearby resorts of Guanaqueros – a fishing village 37km south with a sweeping beach – and Tongoy, 13km further south. A couple of blocks north of Coquimbo’s main street, Avenida Costanera runs along the shore, past the large port, the terminal pesquero, and along to the lively fish market. This area makes for a pleasant stroll along the ocean, provided you don’t mind the strong whiff of fish.

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