The best time to visit is definitely during 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 neighboring islands). Christianity and European popular beliefs 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 6:30AM and 12PM.
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 1hr40 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 pretty effective. Knowing some Spanish would help a lot to get around with ease.
- 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.
Seafood, seafood, and more seafood. In Chiloé, famous for its salmon industry, it is delicious and cheap! Curantos (a local delicacy—a hearty seafood, meat and vegetables stew) and parrilladas are a must!
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!