The best time to visit is during the summer (December to March).
Chiloé has historically been isolated. During the Mapuche rebellion it was the only colonized land south of Concepción. The only connections with the rest of the world were a ship coming from Lima once a year bringing necessary tools and products to those colonizing the island, ships that had been damaged crossing the Cape, and a few pirates and corsairs that liked to wreak havoc, steal and pillage. This and the harsh winters created the conditions for a unique culture that includes a wide variety of mystical creatures, that for some reason do not compete with the reigning Christian beliefs.
Chiloé is famous for myths and legends with roots in its native Mapuche population. The island was Christianized by Spanish conquerors (you can visit 16 World Heritage wooden churches on east cost of the main island and neighbouring islands). Christianity and European folklore mixed with Mapuche myths gave rise to a mythology of sea and forest creatures and warlocks. A dancing, fair-haired beauty similar to the German Lorelei is called Pincoya. It is said that if she dances towards the coast, the sea will bring a lot of fish. A ghost ship carrying the souls of wrecked sailors, similar to the Flying Dutchman, is called Caleuche. Fiura and Trauco stalk on forests, seeking for young people to seduce, despite its ghastly aspect. A very pitiful figure is the Invunche; as a baby his orifices, including his eyes, were closed and one leg was sewn to his back by warlocks of Recta Provincia ("Righteous Province", a witchcraft society) so that he walks on one leg.
Towns were always built on the coast due to the island being covered in dense forest, the roads usually being in bad shape because of the amount of rain, and most of the food coming from the sea. This meant that almost all commerce was transported by boat or lanchon, a small two masted vessel, and created the conditions for all the smaller protected islands to also be inhabited.
Speak Spanish. There may be a few people that know some English, but try to respect the culture. Showing that you are trying means a lot, and people will be more inclined to help you.
Chiloé Island is located 1,016 km south from Santiago and 90 km southeast of Puerto Montt. To reach the island, you need to travel southeast from Puerto Montt towards Pargua, where you have to take the ferry across the Canal de Chacao. Ferries take buses and cars over on a regular basis, between 06:30 and noon.
The fastest way to get to Puerto Montt is by airplane, but you may also continue to Chiloé by plane or car. The non-stop flight between Santiago and Puerto Montt lasts approximately 1hr 40 min and there are at least four flights per day; to Chiloé itself, there are only four flights per week, although a private charter may be arranged.
It takes 14 hours to travel between Santiago and Ancud, the northestmost town in Chiloé, by bus. A good level of service and comfort can be found on buses which provide semi-bed and bed seats. From Puerto Montt numerous buses can also be found to all cities in Chiloé. Bus tickets usually include the short ferry trip.
Santiago to Puerto Montt by car takes approximately 12 hours, taking Route 5 (Spanish: Ruta 5) south to Puerto Montt, then head southeast toward Pargua. At Pargua, visitors board the ferry which crosses the Canal de Chacao to Chiloé. The ferry ride lasts around 25 minutes.
The local bus system is effective. Knowing some Spanish would help a lot to get around with ease.
- Ancud (Terminal de buses Mar Brava) - Duhatao - Pumillahue - Punihuil, ☎ (direct), (Terminal de buses Mar Brava). Out: M-F 07:20, 12:00, 13:00, 16:00, 17:00; Sa 07:20, 12:00. Return: M-F 08:30, 13:15, 14:30, 17:15, 18:00; Sa 08:30, 12:45.. Note, if you get of 1 km before Punihuil at Cruze Run, you save CLP500. The touristy Punihuil is CLP2,000, but the stations before and after it are CLP1,500.
- Ancud - Chepu. Out: M, W, F 06:46 (Petrobras), 16:00 (Terminal de buses Mar Brava). Return: M, W, F 08:00, 17:30..
Hitchhiking is fairly easy compared to the rest of the country. However, you might need several rides before reaching you destinations, because many people just travel short distances between their home and the next supermarket.
- The churches of Chiloé, 16 of which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list
- The Church in Castro, Dalcahue and Quinchao
- The small fishing villages in San Juan
- Wool products in Castro and Dalcahue
- See the fort in Ancud and learn the history of Chiloé, the last bastion of Spanish influence in the Southern Countries.
- Walk through the Tepual in Cucao.
- Find razorclams in the beach in Cucao.
- Charter a yacht to go to the smaller islands.
Hiking and trekking
- Chiloé National Park is popular with great trails along the coast.
- 1 Sendero de Chile (Buses between Ancud and Duhatao are regular during the week and a few early ones during Saturday, see above. Buses between Ancud and Chepu are seldom, just Monday, Wednesday and Fridays. However, hitchhiking in or out is fairly easy on Chiloé Island.). 4 hr / 9 km. Besides the trail along the coast from Rio Chepu to Chiloé National Park, this is another nice, easy to medium difficulty, and inexpensive (no boat required) trail between 6 Duhatao and 7 Chepu which goes along the rough and picturesque coast at its lower 1/3. It involves at least one river crossing were you need to take of your shoes. To use the trail with GPS consult OpenStreetMap, which many mobile Apps like OsmAnd and MAPS.ME use.
Seafood, seafood and more seafood. Popular in Chiloé, famous for its salmon industry, is the delicious and cheap Curantos; a local delicacy of hearty seafood, meat and vegetables stew.
Don't miss the empanadas in the cocinerias in Dalcahue's market.
Try the local cider (Spanish: chicha de manzana), the licor de oro, or the navegado (warm wine with oranges and cinnamon).
Southern Chile seafood (mussels, clams and other bivalve molluscs) could be infected with a poisonous alga which has potentially lethal effects. So always get your seafood from authorized sites.