The Mystical & Magical Island Of Chiloe

Chiloe Houses, Chiloe Island, Inca to Inuit

As a Virgo, I innately struggle with spontaneity, so when we decided to embark on our year long Inca to Inuit adventure without a detailed itinerary it invariably put me somewhat on edge. We’re now nine weeks into our Inca to Inuit adventure and thankfully spontaneity and I have become friends. I wouldn’t say we’re the best of friends as of yet, but we’re getting better acquainted. It was spontaneity that led us to the magical and mystical island of Chiloe.

Chiloe Beach Shot Down Coast Inca to Inuit

After drinking and eating our way down the Pan American highway from San Pedro de Atacama to Santiago, we decided that we should probably dust off our hiking boots and get back to nature. We strapped on our backpacks and wondered to Santiago bus station catching the next bus to Puerto Montt, the gateway to the infinitely beautiful Patagonia. Twelve hours and one broken night’s sleep later we arrived at the industrial looking port town of Puerto Montt.

Arriving at any destination before 7 am is never fun. I always think it’s like you’ve walked into a post-apocalyptic World. There are no people, just dogs roaming haphazardly in the streets and, more importantly, no coffee, anywhere. Clutching our Lonely Planet guide to South America we eventually found a coffee shop that had WI-FI and thus a means for us to figure out how we might complete the next stretch of our journey to Puerto Natales, home to Torres del Paine and the famed W trek.

Torres Del Paine, Chile

Thirty minutes of Googling later and we realised that we had a good five days to “kill” before there was any sign of a boat that could take us on the next stretch of our journey.  For anyone who has spent any time in Puerto Montt you’ll know that it’s not the most alluring of holiday destinations, and after a swift walk down the promenade and a whizz around the shops you are pretty much done. So with that, we hatched a plan to flee and head to somewhere more picturesque where we could surround ourselves with even more snowcapped volcanos.

It was at this point that spontaneity joined the party and after having realised that the patch of the wall I had been staring blindly into across the coffee table was, in fact, a map, a map of the Island of Chiloe, a plan was born. An hour later we were the proud yet temporary owners of a nippy Kia Morning and with that we were away!

Jake and Kia Chiloe

Chiloe Island pokes out of the West coast of Chile, just when you begin to think you are driving into an endless abyss of fjords and glacial valleys. Known for its colourful stilt houses and UNESCO-anointed churches, the island of Chiloe is more than just a welcomed extension to mainland Chile.  Stepping off the short ferry ride from Chile’s south-west coast there is an immediate change in the air. The landscape and the atmosphere capture your imagination instantly and you are left eagerly waiting to explore.

Chiloe House with hill, Inca to Inuit

We found a fabulous homestay a five-minute drive from Castro. Nestled on a sheep farm this beautiful wooden house would be a warm and homely base to explore this incredible island. It was the owners of our accommodation who explained how the people of Chiloe strongly believe in various good and bad forms of witchcraft, folklore and legend. Our hostess was quick to show us a series of photographs she had taken on a recent walk showing an unidentified object flying through the misty island air. She was adamant it was a UFO, but then again she believe’s aliens walk freely amongst the people of Chiloe disguised as islanders.

Somewhat tentatively we spent the next couple of days exploring the mist-covered island of Chiloe. A drive to the National Park on the sparsely populated West Coast was simply breathtaking. Driving through the green rolling hills, I felt like I was back home in the Lake District or the Scottish mountains. We drove until the road ended on the northbound west coast road and hit the most beautiful and tranquil beach I have ever experienced. Mist rolled in from the breakers across the white sand, which was speckled with thousands of pearl coloured shells. The entire beach was deserted leaving Jake and I to enjoy this slice of paradise on our own.

Chiloe Beach Shot Down Coast Inca to Inuit

White shells of Chiloe Beach

Chiloe Lyndsay walking across beach Inca to inuit

Jake on beach, Chiloe, Inca to inuit

The island’s wooden churches are also a must see. According to UNESCO “The churches of Chiloe are outstanding examples of the successful fusion on European and indigenous cultural traditions to produce a unique form of wooden architecture”. Above everything, they are simply spectacular to look at. Their brightly coloured wooden structures light up the misty landscapes, cheering up the grey hued vistas.

UNESCO Church Chiloe Inca to Inuit

If, like us, you fancy escaping to this mystical island for a few days, here are a few helpful tips. Chole is perfect either to get away from the tourist crowd whilst you wait for the Navimag Ferry or stop-over on your way south to Patagonia.

How to get there

We think the best way to explore the island is by car as it allows you to explore all areas of the island at your own pace. There are multiple car hire depots either in downtown Puerto Montt or at Puerto Montt airport where you can expect to pay around 45,000 Chilean Pesos for a day’s hire.  If you prefer to get a bus there are multiple bus companies which can take you either from Puerto Montt (4 hours) or from Santiago (17 hours) to Castro in Chiloe.

Chiloe Ferry Crossing, Inca to Inuit

If you are driving you will need to catch a ferry from Pargua. They leave frequently throughout the day (6 am -12 am) with multiple docks, simply follow the Pan American highway (Route 5) southbound to Pargua and follow the signs for the docks. The ferry costs 14,000 Pesos each way for a car.

What time of year to go

Summer (December through March) is the best time to visit Chiloé, as the weather is better, which means less mist and more time to explore the stunning surroundings. Try to time your visit to coincide with the area’s most popular religious celebration, the Nazarene Procession in Caguach (January), or Castro’s Folk Festival (February).

What to do

Ancud, Castro and Quellón are the main cities on the island to explore. If you prefer to explore the outdoors we would highly recommend heading West to the National park where there are an impressive network of hiking trails, long beaches and tranquil lakes for kayaking. If you find yourself in Chiloe between September and April you have picked the perfect time to penguin watch with the Humboldt and Magellanic penguins available to see playing and nesting on the islands islets.

Have you been to the island of Chiloe? Experience anything weird or wonderful? We’d love to hear from you

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