Our first Chilean road led us to the island of Chiloé of the Los Lagos area (equivalent to the Lake District of Argentina) that quickly became one of my favourite places in this trip. It was quite a strange coincidence that we happened to come here on a rainy weekend, the only rainy days interrupting a sunny period. Arriving there however, I found the island utterly charming and poetic in the bad weather.
Apart from the main island there are more than 40 small islets dotted around, all hilly and curvy. The winding roads on the hilly landscape run through lush forests with wildly curving arrayan trees (typical of this part of Chile), grazing lands with cows and tiny villages of faded colourful, wooden houses. The rainy, misty weather gave a mystical feel especially to the coastal areas where rock and forest drops into the Pacific Ocean – I marvelled at this view during our hitch on Lemuy islet from the higher seat of a road work truck.
The other islands that we visited are quite similar: small villages scattered around the land, an artisanal market and a small, wooden church in the centre – typical architecture from the island.
Castro, the capital of the island of Chiloé
We stayed in Castro which is the biggest (still cute and small) town, in the middle of the main island – a strategically well located town to explore the area. The places that we visited are the popular Quinchao and the smaller and further Lemuy island, the Chiloé National Park and Puñihuil where Magellan and Humboldt penguins breed from spring till autumn. The national park is at a wetland area which encompasses dense rainforest (tepual), swamps, peat bogs and coastal dunes. It’s a unique place where the vegetation of a freshwater lake and salty ocean meets. There’s a possibility to go for a 2-day hike in the National Park with camping but not having a tent and warm enough clothes, we opted for a day trip with shorter hikes on boardwalk. Still, the tepual forest gave a magical feeling, like a scene from The Lord of the Rings. Entrance to the National Park was 4000 CLP per person (foreigners).
Our best multi-day hikes in Patagonia post features the 2-day hike in Chiloé National Park
Hitchhiking at the Chiloé island
Another great thing, we managed to hitchhike on the whole of Chiloé island. Cars stopped sometimes instantly when we stuck out our finger. Locals (called Chilotes) are very nice, but their accent and speed of talking sometimes made the conversation impossible for me.
Off the beaten track
The island of Chiloé is not such a high profile destination compared to the southern part of Patagonia but still, based on locals’ stories and by the number of accommodation we’ve seen available, it’s a summer hit for holiday makers. Luckily we were there at spring time, before the crowds arrived. Although the area is small, we had the feeling that we could spend a month there easily, exploring the beautiful nature around.
Getting to Chiloé
Chiloé is situated in the north of Chilean Patagonia, in the Los Lagos region. The nearest airport is Puerto Montt, which is also a big transportation hub from where there are direct buses to Castro. So if you are already in Chile, a more sustainable traveling option is taking a bus – a long-distance night or day bus – to Puerto Montt, and changing there towards Castro.
Read how to plan a trip to Patagonia in our post