A Quick Guide to Chiloé Island in Southern Chile

The culture of Chiloé’s fiercely independent islanders is no less intriguing thanks to a unique folkloric tradition, neighborhoods of stilted fishermen’s houses known as palafitos.

Stilted palafito houses in Castro, Chiloé island’s largest settlement.

The verdant, rain-soaked isla grande of Chiloé, by far the largest island in its namesake Chilean archipelago, may be famously inclement all year round, but the longer days of the southern summer bring better chances of sun and meadows of wildflowers in full bloom.

It’s also breeding season for endemic Humboldt and Magellanic penguins on the rugged western coast; other draws for nature-lovers include protected woodlands sheltering endangered Darwin’s foxes and southern river otters, plus a seasonal population of pygmy blue whales offshore.

The culture of Chiloé’s fiercely independent islanders is no less intriguing thanks to a unique folkloric tradition, neighborhoods of stilted fishermen’s houses known as palafitos, and 60 nautical wooden churches—16 of them UNESCO-inscribed—that nod to the shipbuilding prowess of local craftsmen.

Getting There
LATAM Chile flies to Chiloé’s Mocopulli Airport from the Chilean capital Santiago, which can be reached via Sydney aboard Qantas.

Where to Stay
An ultramodern take on the island’s vernacular architecture, eco-chic Tierra Chiloé (56-2/2263-0606 from US$1,650, all-inclusive) offers just 24 rooms on a bucolic seafront property.

Don’t Miss
Local fare—think foraged seaweed, razor clams, and braised smoked pork—elevated to gourmet standards at Restaurant Travesía in the main city of Castro.

This article originally appeared in the December 2018/January 2019 print issue of DestinAsian magazine (“Cheers to Chiloé”).

Share this Article