Coquimbo, Chile

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Legend has it that pirates crossed the Strait of Magellan to Coquimbo's beaches to bury their treasure. But even if you don't find a pot of gold along Chile's northern coastline, you will discover a city with many jewels.

 

Sparkling along a stretch of idyllic white sand are the shallow waters of La Herradura Bay, a favourite beauty spot against the rocky backdrop of Coquimbo's hills.

 

For a lively mix of music, culture and food, it's worth a wander to the beautifully restored 19th-century Barrio Inglés (English Quarter), or to the fishing jetty for some fresh seafood.

 

Those with a head for heights can climb El Vigía hill to The Third Millennium Cross, a staggering monument which dominates the skyline. A surreal mix between a holy pilgrimage site and viewpoint, there's a museum (largely devoted to the late Pope John Paul II), praying rooms and an elevator ride to the top.