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Chiloe Island: nature, churches and crafts

This Chilean island is located along the central-southern coast of Chile in the Los Lagos region and is the largest (8,394 km²) in the Chiloe archipelago. It is also the second largest island in Chile after Tierra del Fuego. The island of Chiloe has a vaguely rectangular shape and extends for about 190 km in length and for about 60 km in width.

The island is crossed from north to south by the mountains of the Cordillera de la Costa. These mountains to the north form the Cordillera del Piuchén and to the south the Cordillera de Pirulil. These mountainous areas reach their highest part just 800 meters above sea level.

The island is not connected to the mainland by a bridge, but there are ferries that operate between Pargua on the mainland and Chacao on the island of Chiloe. The crossing time is approximately 25 minutes. On the island there is also a small airport, Aeropuerto Mocopulli, which has flights to Santiago de Chile.

LAST SPANISH OUTPOST IN SOUTH AMERICA

Chiloe was colonized by the Spanish from the mid-16th century. The island, together with the Callao fortress (Fortaleza del Real Felipe) in Peru, was the last Spanish outpost in South America. Only in January 1826 did the Spanish loyalist troops stationed on the island of Chiloé surrender to the Chilean republican troops.

In the town of Ancud you can visit the remains of Fort San Antonio which was one of the last Spanish bastions in South America. Another fortification reminiscent of the Spanish colonization is the Fuerte Agüi located on the Lacuy peninsula, right in front of the town of Ancud.

Typical of the island are the wooden buildings in stilts. These buildings are visible today above all in the town of Castro, the most important inhabited center of the island. The island is also characterized by the strong religiosity of the inhabitants which manifests itself in the beautiful wooden churches and in the ceremonies and religious holidays. Chiloe is also famous for its craftsmanship of fabrics, wool, wood and ceramics.

A GREAT NATURAL RICHNESS

Along the western coast of the island is the Parque nacional Chiloe which extends into the area of the Cordillera del Piuchén. The park protects typical natural environments such as dunes, temperate forests (a dense evergreen forest made up of trees, shrubs and creepers), larches and peat bogs.

A natural area of great beauty is Parque Tepuhueico where it is possible to take splendid walks until you reach the Pacific ocean coast. In particular, the path that leads to the so-called “Ánimas de Cucao” and Punta Pirulil is very beautiful. This is a 45 minute walk suitable also for children that will catapult you to an incredibly beautiful place made of rocky cliffs overlooking the ocean: the “Muelle de las álmas”, spectacular on a sunny day.

HISTORICAL WOODEN CHURCHES UNESCO HERITAGE

Sixteen churches on the island of Chiloé have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Churches of Chiloé are of their kind a unique example of wooden religious buildings throughout Latin America. These churches testify to a successful fusion between indigenous and European culture. They also represent examples of full integration of religious architecture into the landscape and the surrounding environment. The sixteen churches included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site are those of the villages of: Achao, Quinchao, Castro, Rilán, Nercón, Aldachildo, Ichuac, Detif, Vilupulli, Chonchi, Tenaún, Colo, San Juan, Dalcahue, Chellín and Caguach .

Gastronomy is also an aspect not to be overlooked during your visit to the island of Chiloé. Among the typical products of the area: Chilotes garlic (Ajos Chilotes), native potatoes (Papas Nativas), fish (pescado), seafood (mariscos) and meat.

The climate of the island of Chiloé.

The UNESCO page on the churches of the island.

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