Chiloé is easy to fall in love with. The wooden churches and palafitos houses are beautiful and the penguins payful. But what we really love are the stories the Chilotes tell...
It is a beguiling place, Chiloé. It feels oddly familiar, very much like parts of Devon or Ireland. But then there are the colourful wooden tiled houses and farmsteads. And the fishing boats. And the snow-capped volcanoes of the Andes across the bay.
It’s familiar yet different.
With all that coastline, you can’t really understand Chile without the coast. Chiloé is about the ocean and it is about people. Here, land meets sea; cows grazing on seaweed and horses framed against the vast expanse of the Pacific ocean. The hardness of the country lives here too: they're all tough farmers or fishermen. And yet, raise your hand in a slow open-handed salute and you’ll get a smile and a wave. Stop to talk and they’ll pass the time of day.
On the surface it has a weather-beaten face, inside a warm heart...
Chiloé marked the southernmost reach of Spain’s colonial empire. Jesuit missionaries arrived at the start of the 17th century and set about constructing the emblematic wooden churches, of which 16 are today protected by UNESCO World Heritage status. Both in their architecture and their history, they embody the blending of European influences with the local indigenous cultures and boat-making craftsmanship from which Chiloé’s identity stems.
Then the Mapuche rebellion happened and the remaining Spanish were marooned on the island and left to their own devices. It’s only natural that such a close seafaring culture has ensued in its people, in its cuisine and in its architecture. Just as it was for centuries, Chiloé was again separated from the mainland by more than just the water.
It’s easy to be seduced by the images of Chiloé. The wooden churches are splendid, the penguins adorable and those palafitos are ridiculously photogenic. But behind them, are many stories and myths passed down through the generations. For four centuries this was a major stopping point for trade ships making the perilous journey around the Cape Horn. So the traditions, beliefs and folklore of Chiloé are as colourful as the island’s stilt houses.
It's this cultural texture, as well as the postcard views and architectural achievements, that we want to share with you.
How to visit Chiloé with Pura Aventura We find that three nights is a good amount of time to spend on Chiloé Grande, the main island of the archipelago. This would ideally be spent in the company of our wonderful guide Brett and sleeping in his cabin, which looks out across the water. During the course of the four days you’ll have ample time to get out to visit both sides of the coastline and the island’s most historic and culturally-rich settlements.
From Chiloé you might like to explore the Lake District, on through the protected Valdivian temperate rainforests and waterfalls of Huilo Huilo and up to the winelands of Santa Cruz. Or instead head south and begin your road adventure down Patagonia's Carretera Austral, part of the Route of Parks. If you'd like us to help piece everything together, we'd be only too glad to chat.