Isla Grande De Chiloe Travel Guide

Isla Grande de Chiloe © Joanna C

Chiloé is South America's largest island, 112 miles (180km) long and 31 miles (50km) wide. It is a wild and beautiful place but also one of Chile's poorest areas with most of the populace scratching a living out of farming or fishing. It has rich folkloric traditions and a wealth of mythology that has contributed to Chilean literature, involving trolls, sea monsters and ghost ships. Another mark of the unique Chilote culture is the distinctive craftwork that is produced, especially that made from wool.

The island has a recognisable architectural heritage: the forested countryside is scattered with more than 150 wooden churches dating from about two centuries ago; the estuaries are lined with quaint palafitos (stilted houses); and the small towns feature wooden shingled buildings. Most of the Chilotes live within sight of the sea and picturesque scenes of colourful wooden boats are commonly visible through the rain and mist. Seafood is a common part of daily life and the morning's freshest catch is always available at local restaurants and markets.

Known for its damp weather and the spooky folklore that seems perfectly suited to the island's misty beauty, Chiloé balances wild nature with the warmth of its people and their culture. As it is still largely an unknown destination, a visit to the island offers adventurous travellers an authentic and different experience of Chile, especially in the main town Castro, or in the wonderful national park on the pacific coast, Parque Nacional Chiloé.

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