By sea towards Chiloé: On a Navimag ferry you can sail from Puerto Chacabuco or Puerto Natales to Puerto Montt and from there drive or take a bus to the island of Chiloé, crossing the straits of Chacao on another ferry.
Chiloé’s main city is Castro, 173 kilometers from Puerto Montt and 1,198 km from Santiago.
You can arrive in Puerto Montt by air at El Tepual Airport or by land via Route 5 (the Panamerican Highway), and then from there drive or take a bus (via the city of Puerto Montt) to Chiloé Island, crossing the straits of Chacao on another ferry. (Navimag only offers ferry transport on the aforementioned routes and does not provide a transport service between Puerto Montt and Chiloé)
Activities in Chiloé
One of the main things to do in Chiloé is to visit the beaches dotted around the island, where you can participate in a range of nautical sports. The best beaches on the island are found in Dalcahue.
Visit Ancud and Castro. Ancud is a city well known for its colonial style architecture, exemplified by its churches. The Plaza de Armas in Castro is an important point of interest in the city together with its Regional Museum, where you can find a collection of traditional Chilote objects, including items made from wood and steel as well as musical instruments. The San Francisco church, declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO, is another must see in Castro. It was built between 1910 and 1912.
We recommend visiting the Museum of Modern Art of Chiloé, which was built to exhibit contemporary art, in all of its forms, and free of ideological or religious criteria, in a dignified and independent environment.
Flora and Fauna of Chiloé
The main Island of Chiloé has a varied ecosystem totally isolated from the continent. Among the flora, the Valdivian Laurel-leaved Forest (Tepa) predominates along with evergreen forest (Coigue), and Valdivian temperate rain forest, with species such as alerce, coigüe, mountain cypress and arrayán. Wildlife species include the huemul, pudú, Darwin’s fox, monito del monte (a small endemic marsupial), the comadreja trompuda (long-nosed shrew opossum), the nutria or southern river otter, the Kodkod also known as the Guiña, the smallest cat of the Americas, chungungo or sea otter, toninas (small dolphins), and sea lions, among others.
Where to eat in Chiloé
As an island, it is not surprising that the cuisine of Chiloé is based on fish and seafood as well as some meats.
Cocinerías Feria Municipal: you can have an empanada (turnover) and a seafood soup and soft drink for about 3,000 pesos. These canteens are located behind the municipal fruit and vegetable market of Ancud.
Cascada de Tocoihue: Family restaurant which serves empanadas and curantos, a typical local dish prepared with shellfish, potatoes, and meat, cooked over hot rocks. They also have some great pastries called “calzones rotos” meaning torn underwear. The restaurant is located between Dalcahue and Tocoihue, on a turnoff towards the waterfalls just before reaching the village of Tocoihue.
Cocinerías en Dalcahue: these canteens are on the walkway, next to the arts and crafts market, with a view of the ocean. The portions are generous and the prices are low.
Stilts and Shingles of Chiloé
On a Patagonia cruise – or any Patagonia travel vacation, really – landscape and wildlife are the traditional highlights. Still, no Patagonia ferry itinerary should overlook the region’s cultural attractions, including its architecture. In southernmost Patagonia, for instance, there’s a distinctive “Magellanic” style of metal-clad wooden houses, many in a derivative Victorian style that dates from the 19th-century wool boom.
At the same time, the archipelago of Chiloé – on Patagonia’s northernmost limit – has a unique vernacular style developed from a tradition of insular self-sufficiency in colonial times. Walking the waterfront of the city of Castro is one of the main island’s great pleasures, where fishermen once tied their skiffs to their palafitos, stilted houses that extend into the waters of the inlet where the city sits. Today, though, many of these picturesque dwellings have become hotels, hostels, restaurants and art galleries in the Barrio Gamboa and Barrio Montt neighborhoods just outside the immediate city center.
Still, throughout the entire archipelago, even simple houses display a variety of stylish shingles crafted from timber of the alerce (false larch), a long-lived conifer resembling the redwoods of coastal California. Predating the arrival of the Spaniards, these features have influenced styles farther south as Islanders emigrated to other areas, but they also contributed to a better-known legacy when Jesuit missionaries built churches and chapels earned the island UNESCO World Heritage status at the turn of this century. According to UNESCO, those structures “bear witness to a successful fusion of indigenous and European culture, the full integration of its architecture in the landscape and environment.”
Many of these since then have disappeared or deteriorated, but others survive on the main island and some smaller ones that are accessible by launches or Patagonia navigation routes. A good starting place is the city of Ancud, at the north end of the main island, where the Fundación Amigos Iglesias de Chiloé has renovated a one-time convent into an architectural heritage gallery.
Climate in Chiloé
The climate on the Chiloé islands is temperate and rainy, the average temperature is about 11°C and annual rainfall amounts to 2500 mm on the eastern side and 4000 mm on the western side of the main Island, in the high areas of the Piuchén cordillera. Snow is not a common occurrence, but rain is common all year around.
Where to stay in Chiloé
Hotel Unicornio Azul
Av. Pedro Montt 228, Castro, Chiloé, Chile
Tel.: (56-65) 632359
Hotel Galeón Azul
Libertad 751, Ancud, Chiloé, Chile
Tel.: (56-65) 622567
Hostal Torre de Babel
O’Higgins #965, Castro, Chiloé, Chile
Tel.: (56-65) 534569
Hostal Vista al Mar
Av. Costanera S. Allende 918, Ancud, Chiloé, Chile
Tel.: (56-65) 622617