The Grand Island of Chiloe and its neighboring islands are divided from the mainland by the Gulf of Ancud and the Canal de Chacao.
These islands are part of the Chilean Coastal Range, the oceanfront cordillera running north-to-south; parallel to the Andes.
Scores of islets lie off Chiloe’s coast, providing a perfect setting for sea kayak and sailing trips.
High tides wash shellfish ashore, which residents gather and prepare in savory curantos—hearty mixtures of native potatoes, meat, muscles, and razor clams.
Spanish colonizers were never able to conquer the mighty Mapuche people of the southern mainland.
As a result, Chiloe was the only Spanish outpost south of the Bio Bio River for over 300 years.
Over time, Spanish immigrants blended with the island’s indigenous population.
Inspired by the myths of both cultures and the misty wonder of their island, Chilotes developed a unique folklore inhabited by gods, dwarves, wizards, mermaids, and magical beasts.
These legends live on in the practices, sayings, and superstitions of locals.
Ancud and Castro
Ancud and Castro, the island’s main port towns, exhibit an air of timelessness.
Fisherman still bring in the daily catch, the main plazas are quiet, and local markets sell handcrafted boxes and sweaters.
The surrounding countryside—rolling hills, pastures, and woodland—is dotted with small farming settlements.
While you’d be forgiven if you mistook this landscape for New Zealand or Ireland, one noteworthy difference is the traditional wood-shingled homes and churches.
Chiloe National Park
In recognition of their unique architectural form, fourteen wooden churches were declared World Heritage Sites by UNESCO in the year 2000.
Chiloe’s island’s south and west coasts are thick with evergreen rainforests.
Chiloe National Park protects 106,000 acres of old growth woodlands and beaches.
During the November through February summer season, backpackers can hike from trailheads near Cucao, 22 miles southwest of Castro, through the humid tepú forest, and along the pristine shore.
Getting to Chiloe Island
Most visitors reach Chiloe by ferry from Pargua, near the Lake District town of Puerto Montt.
Direct flights are available between Puerto Montt and Santiago (approximately 1.5 hours).
Chiloe has a mild climate and plentiful rainfall, similar to that of coastal Washington State.
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“Every legend, moreover, contains its residuum of truth, and the root function of language is to control the universe by describing it.”
James Arthur Baldwin
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