Category: Travel in Chile
Chiloé (Isla de Chiloé in Spanish) is the largest island of the popular Chiloé Archipelago.
What is really remarkable about this detached territory is its cultural richness that has been spread by its people all over Chile.
This article is an invitation to explore the wonders of Chiloé and its culture. On this island, you will be able to admire gorgeous landscapes, enjoy delicious seafood, and learn from its rich culture full of myths and legends.
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Other names: Greater Island of Chiloé (Spanish: Isla Grande de Chiloé)
Location: Pacific Ocean
Area: 8.394 sq.km (3,241 sq.mi)
Width: 65 km (40.4 mi)
Length: 191 km (118 mi)
Coordinates: 42°40′36″S 73°59′36″W
When to visit: All year long
Where is Chiloé Island located?
We’d like to start from the very beginning – where is this magnificent piece of land located?
Isla de Chiloé is the second-largest island of Chile. It’s located off the coast of the Latin country, in the Pacific Ocean. Its territory is part of the Southern region called Los Lagos, well-known for its deep forests, Andean mountains, and crystal clear lakes.
The beautiful Chiloé Island is a bit more than 1000 km away from Santiago. The nearest town is the regional capital. Puerto Montt (about 90 km away).
How to get to Chiloé Island?
The closest land connection to Chiloé Island is Puerto Montt, where you can catch a local bus. Note that you will need to make a quick transfer to a ferry, which will take you across the Canal de Chacao. When you book the ticket make sure to double-check your options, as there are bus tickets, including the price of the ferry as well.
If you are coming from the city of Santiago, you can catch a direct plane to the airport Mocopulli, which will take 1.5 hours, or you can drive (approximately 13 hours) to Puerto Montt.
We hope you enjoyed our “walk” through this enchanted island, as much as we did, and See you soon! Stay Safe 🙂
What’s so special about Chiloé’s landscape?
The first marvelous thing about this place is the landscape. There is a typical construction called “palafitos,” which are houses sustained over the water by wooden pillars. You can admire them almost everywhere on the island near the coast, and because this is a humid region, the vegetation is very diverse and leafy, so you can organize treks to enjoy the view of the sea and the woods.
What’s the typical food on the island?
Let’s now get to know the distinctive food from the island: Curanto.
This preparation has spread to most of the southern areas of the country and it’s usually cooked in a hole of about a meter deep. The bottom of the hole dug in the ground, is covered with stones heated in a bonfire until red. The ingredients are all endemic of the island: clams, ribbed mussels, and picorocos (big barnacles), also the meat is very important, commonly pork and sausages. Other important ingredients are Milcao (a kind of potato dumpling) and Chapalele (a different type of dumpling) that are cooked together with all the seafood. Finally, the Curanto is covered with nalca leaves (a type of plant of the island) as a giant pressure cooker.
What mythical creatures are living on Chiloé Island?
Last but not least, the rich mythology of the island makes it a unique place in every way possible. This remarkable characteristic may be due to the isolation of the place, which clearly impacts the socio-cultural view of the inhabitants. Here are some of the most famous myths:
A mythical creature who lives in the sea and hides from mortal eyes in a cave called “el escondite” She looks like a young beautiful woman with long blond hair, but without the tail of a fish. The legend says that it appears from the sea and dances with the weaves to increase the amount of fish caught.
Trauco is an entity similar to a very ugly man, like a very short ogre. It walks around the woods of Chiloé carrying a twisted walking stick called Pahueldún. Also, he carries around a small ax, which is capable to cut any tree of the zone. This monster rapes young girls and kills every man he sees during his walks
This phantom ship sails the waters of Chiloé at night. Some people believed that its last port is “Cesar’s city” located at some point on the Andes Mountain, a place where can live forever. Sailors say that, when you are at the sea, you have to be respectful to avoid Caleuche’s fury.
More highlights in Chiloé Island you don’t wanna miss
We assume you have already fallen in love with Chiloé so let’s keep digging and find out more about this fascinating and mysterious land.
Churches of Chiloé
Some of the most popular attractions amongst tourists and residents, which the island is known for, is the beautiful and unique Churches of Chiloé.
At the beginning of the 17th century, when the Spanish Jesuits first arrived at the island, they initiated to spread and popularised Christianity. While travelling between the surrounding villages and islands, they collaborated with local builders at each area they have visited and raised churches, which were going to be looked after by the indigenous people when their missionaries were away.
But what is so special about the Churches of Chiloé? Well, back in the time is presumed that Chiloé had approximately 150 wooden churches (Spanish: Iglesias) and chapels (Spanish: Capillas), all entirely made of native wood. They even used originally wooden pegs, instead of nails. The mixture between the Spanish design and the use of local native techniques and materials completes the unique architecture of these churches.
Today, only 60 of them remained and 16 of them were declared under UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the 2000 year.
Some of the most favourite ones are the Church of San Francisco, Achao, and Quinchao.
Chiloé National Park
Chiloé National Park is located in the Los Lagos Region (Region of the Lakes), which is on the western coast of Chiloé Island and extends in the area of up to 43 057 hectares.
It is a great place to discover Chiloé wildlife, including 110 different types of birds and the world’s smallest deer – pudú.
The park is predominated by the breathtaking evergreen Valdivian forest, and it’s home to a variety of climbing plants, shrubs, perennial trees, and even a Chilean rhubarb. Along with the fauna and flora exploring, the park offers more alternative activities, such as hiking, horse riding, photography.
So, if you are a nature lover – you won’t regret the visit. Just remember, the weather there is mostly rainy, so make sure you did not forget your water-resistant shoes and jacket.
Muelle de las Almas
Muelle de las Almas, or also known as “Dock of Souls” is an art installation, near the town of Cucao, placed in a private property at Punta Pirulil, and built by Marcelo Orellana Rivera – Chilean wood sculptor and art professor from the city of Santiago. It was created in 2007, inspired by indigenous traditions, culture, and death rituals.
There are two different versions of the legend, associated with this mystical place, those of Mapuche and Chilote mythology.
In Mapuche’s version, it is believed that the Trempulcahue (which are four old women transformed into four whales) have the duty to carry out the souls of the dead over the sea and to take them safely, into the afterlife and their resting place.
In Chilote’s legend, the Huilliches (indigenous people from the Cucao region) have a little bit different interpretation of the story. They know the trempulcahue, as Tempilcahue, which this time is presented as a boatman who’s a grumpy old man with a bad temper, who also requires a fee from the poor dead souls. If they wish to bring their horses or dogs with them along their afterlife journey, they must pay even more.
To get to Muelle de las Almas might be a bit challenging, but it is worth it 🙂
This has been a very brief summary of the marvellous things that you will find on this beautiful island. Travel to Chiloé, you won’t regret it.
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