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La Serena, Callao and Manta Port Suggestions

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Doing a West Coast South America cruise and would like suggestions for any of these three ports.  History a plus.

Thanks in advance.

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Since no one has responded I'll jump in--assuming you are going in the fall and not on an eclipse cruise this summer.  It kind of depends on what kind of budget you have and what you enjoy doing.  There are tons of things you can do in Callao.  I personally would not recommend the rushed cruise line trip to Machu Picchu that is usually offered.  Assuming you have an overnight there, I highly recommend the Magic Water Fountain Circuit.  Unless you are there on a Monday evening, your ship will probably offer a tour for a reasonable price--it was $40 pp on the Zaandam recently or you can take a cab on your own if you are adventurous like us.  We shared a cab with another couple for $20 each way (for the cab).  Admission is free if you are a senior with ID.


Of course there are plenty of other tour options--the Main Square area is worth visiting--changing of the guard at the government palace, the Cathedral, the San Francisco church and convent with the catacombs, etc.  If you are on a Holland America ship, you will probably be shuttled to Plaza San Martin which is not far from a couple of great museums--the Larco Museum and the National Museum of Archaeology, Anthropology, and History.  There is a zoo and park--Parque de las Leyendas--within walking distance of Plaza San Martin.  Miraflores is a great place to visit with the oceanside park areas, Kennedy Park, the Mall, Huaca Puclanna, etc.  I believe all cruise lines shuttle passengers away from the dangerous port area and there will be plenty of taxis waiting at the shuttle dropoff point.  In most cases they will be happy to take USD so you don't necessarily need to change money.  Of course, your cruise line will have plenty of options to these and other attractions.


La Serena is not the most exciting port, I would have to say.  La Serena has a historical downtown area and most tours take you up for a great view from the University.  You can take a tour to the Observatory and/or the Elqui Valley out of town.  You can also take the local bus to La Serena if you are an independent traveler.  Coquimbo is OK for just walking around the town or out to the fort at the end of the peninsula.  I've not done it but you can also tour the Mosque there.   As is true of every place we have visited in South America, there is a very nice, modern mall to the left from the port.  There is free wi-fi in the port building.


Manta is the tuna capital of the world so you may see ships unloading their catch which is good for a few minutes.  On a nice day, the beach is OK, though the sand is not particularly inviting.  The port building has decent wi-fi and there is a nice mall across the street from the port exit as well as a small museum.  Some days of the week there is a market less than a mile to the left along the waterfront.  You can take a tour or the local bus to Montecristi where they make Panama hats.  If your cruise ends in Chile, you may want to avoid Tagua nut souvenirs--the carved items look a bit like ivory.  My husband picked up one of the uncarved nuts on a tour which was confiscated in San Antonio, Chile.  They did not notice the Tagua nut magnets I bought so I am not sure if they would have also confiscated those.  Chile is very strict about anything that can be considered agricultural entering their country.


As you can see, we did not arrange any independent tours--did a couple of ships tours and did the rest on our own.  My husband speaks Spanish so we did OK.  Good luck and have fun.

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