Chiloe consists of an archipelago in the Southern Zone of Chile. This city with a rich cultural heritage is a popular tourist destination in Chile because of its unique history.
Located 1,016 km from Santiago and 90 km southeast of Puerto Montt, the Chiloe archipelago consists of several islands and is part of the Lake District. Within the archipelago, Chiloe Island is the largest. Major cities include Ancud, Quellon and Chonchi, and the topography is characterized by lush forests and rocky slopes. The main attraction of Chiloe, which makes it one of the most attractive tourist destinations in Chile, is the rich history and culture of the archipelago.
The island has been colonized since the late 16th century, but conflicts with the natives resulted in relative isolation from mainland Chile. In the centuries following the conquest, the island was inhabited by native Christians and Jesuit and Franciscan priests. The latter led the construction of many wooden churches across the archipelago, many of which remain and have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Over the centuries, the Chilote population developed a unique culture that combined native and European legends to create certain mythologies and superstitions, including belief in animals and spirits such as the pincoya, caleub and invuche. In general, folklore, mythology, cuisine, and architecture are unique aspects that make Chiloe such a great attraction.
Chiloe’s base tour includes Caulin Bay, which is accessible by ferry via the 2km-wide Chacao Canal to the town of Ancud, the main departure point, and the northernmost city of the archipelago. At Ancud, tourists can sample a variety of seafood that the region is famous for, as well as historical sites such as the Museo Regional and Fort San Antonio. On the outskirts of Ancud, visitors can observe a penguin colony in Puñihuil Bay, with 3 small islands that have been named natural monuments of the world because they are the only places where magellanic and humboldt penguins nest.
Other natural attractions include natural sites such as Chiloe National Park, Tantauco Park, Lacuy Peninsula, and the Chepu River, where tourists can embark on bird watching, sailing and other excursions. The forest here is characterized by moderate valdivian rainforest, which has tree species including arrayan, roble and avellano. Among the unique fauna found here are the darwin fox, pudu (small deer), Commerson’s dolphin and a sea lion colony.
For tourists seeking culture, Chiloe provides an interesting architectural heritage, distinct from mainland Chile. Jesuits and other priests built several small wooden churches in the 18th and 19th centuries, which provide excellent examples of mixed race culture. Churches as well as houses and other buildings have wooden tiles as a measure against humid and rainy climates. Another distinct feature are the houses on stilts, especially in Castro and Chonchi.
Summer is the best time to visit Chiloe.
Between Santiago and Ancud, travel time is 14 hours by bus and 1 hour 40 minutes by air to Puerto Montt. The ferry crossing from Pargua via the canal is about 25 minutes. From Chiloe, Austral Navier provides connections further south to Chaiten and Chacabuco.