Reasons to go to Chiloé

  • Wild landscapes from rolling dunes and thick woodlands that are easily accessible by car, or explored by heading off-road on remote hiking trails.
  • Plentiful wildlife watching opportunities, including the opportunity to visit penguin colonies, and spot dolphins, sea lions and even blue whales.
  • World Heritage listed wooden churches, plus Chiloé's famous palafitos – colourful waterfront stilt houses.
  • Coastal exploration on the water, taking to sea kayaks to explore Chiloé's many fjords or spotting sea life from a cruise boat.
  • Home to Tierra Chiloé, one of Chile's most distinctive luxury lodges.

Highlights of Chiloé Island

Illustrated Guide

About Chiloé

Palafitos in Castro, Chiloé

Palafitos in Castro, Chiloé

Chiloé is the third largest island in South America, and although it's only a short ferry ride from the mainland it offers a dramatically different spectacle to the rest of Chile. The island was first settled by the Huillipiche, an offshoot of the Mapuche people. The Spanish arrived in the 16th century, and made it their stronghold while attempting the conquest of the rest of the region. The island remained a relative backwater until the founding of nearby Puerto Montt and the arrival of German immigrants from the 1850s boosted the local economy. Today, the island fishing and salmon farming are mainstays of the economy, though much of Chiloé’s landscape remains relatively wild and untouched, making it perfect for travellers looking to escape to the natural world.

What to See & Do on Chiloé

Explore Chilote Culture

Cooking traditional Curanto on Chiloe island

Cooking traditional Curanto on Chiloe island

Chiloé’s long history outside the mainstream of Chilean life has allowed it to maintain a strong cultural identity that’s unique in the country, blending together indigenous Mapuche, colonial Spanish and Germanic influences.
The Jesuits left one of the most visible marks on the island through their construction of Chiloé’s iconic wooden churches – 16 of which have been collectively listed as a World Heritage site by UNESCO. The vernacular architecture is just as notable: in coastal towns and villages, brightly painted stilt houses called palafitos were built over the water, a smart design that allowed fishermen to tie up their boats below and walk out of their front door onto the street above. Some of the best can be found in Chiloé’s capital, Castro.
The influence of the sea also looms large in Chilote cuisine. All visitors should try a bowl of curanto, a rich stew of meat, fish and potatoes traditionally prepared in an underground oven. Stones are heated in a firepit and then overlaid with the ingredients and covered with thick layers of leaves and then earth to allow the meal to slowly steam for several hours. A bowl of curanto is the particularly enjoyable after a long day exploring the coast and country, or souvenir shopping at Chiloé's most famous Sunday market at Dalcahue.

Wildlife Watching

Red-legged cormorants nesting in Chiloé

Red-legged cormorants nesting in Chiloé

Chiloe's vast coastlands, wetlands, river systems, forests and fields offer some of the richest wildlife watching in Southern Chile; even from the 30 minute ferry journey to access the island, you can spot penguins, dolphins and groups of playful sea lions.
One of Chiloés main wildlife attractions is at Puñihuil, three islands off the northwest coast that are the only place in the word where both Magellanic and Humboldt penguins gather together to breed. The wide channel here facing the fjords of the mainland is also known for blue whales, who gather in the Patagonian summer during their migration to their nursery grounds in the Gulf of Corcovado. Take a cruise boat to spot them, alongside the humpback whales can also be seen during this time.
Spend two days with a specialised birding guide on Chiloé visiting different areas of the island, doing some gentle hiking while spotting birds and learning about the native flora. The wetlands of the Caulín Bird Sanctuary offer particularly good birdwatching, and sometimes even a glimpse of the rare endemic Patagonian river otter.

Multi-Activity Trips

Puñihuil Islands off the northwest coast of Chiloé

Puñihuil Islands off the northwest coast of Chiloé

Chiloé is one of Chile’s great multi-activity destinations, and the island’s size means that you can try a different adventure every day of your trip. Get away from it all by hiking the rugged Pacific coast, especially at the windswept Chiloé National Park, with its wild dunes and winding trails through forests teeking with birdlife, or the jagged cliffs of Tepuheico National Park. On the eastern side of the island, a coastline crinkled with fjords offers plentiful peaceful water channels to explore by sea kayak. If you’re lucky you might find yourself accompanied part of the way by a curious pod of Chilean dolphins.
Return each evening to a cosy wooden cabin by the beach for a home-cooked meal, a glass of Chilean wine and the noise of the waves lapping against the shore as you drop off to sleep - simply idyllic.

How to get to Chiloé

Chiloé Island

By Air
Chiloé is easily accessible by air from two airports. Castro’s Mocupulli airport (code MHC) has daily flights to Santiago, taking just under two hours. You can also fly from Santiago to Puerto Montt’s Tepual airport (code PMC) on the mainland, and take the ferry to Chiloé. Puerto Montt also has regular flights to Punta Arenas, the access point to Torres del Paine.

By Ferry
Despite talk of a long-planned bridge to the island, a ferry is currently the only way to reach Chiloé by vehicle from the mainland. Two companies run regular car ferries between Pargua, 62km south of Puerto Montt, and Chacao on Chiloé. The ferry does not need to be pre-booked but queues during the peak summer months of January and February can sometimes add up to two hours to your journey. At other times, expect the trip from Puerto Montt to Ancud on Chiloé to take around three hours, including the 30 minute ferry.

Explore Chiloé from a luxury lodge

Set high on a hill and surrounded by rolling countryside, the Tierra Chiloé hotel looks out onto the one of the many channels that surround the Chiloé Archipelago. The hotel itself is an extremely modern wooden building that echoes Chiloé's traditional architecture, designed to create comfortable spaces with most of the incredible views, while quietly blending in to its landscape. The hotel offers a variety of excursions from kayaking and horse riding to vehicle-based exploration but the gem of the hotel is the 'Wiliche' wooden boat that allows its passengers to explore locations where very few other visitors have the privilege of visiting.

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