If you already visited Santiago, Valparaiso or Puerto Mont and you think you know everything about Chile you are wrong, you have never been to the Island of Chiloe a place with its own culture and costumes that has evolved separately from the rest of the country.
The Island of Chiloe or Big Island of Chiloe, to call it for it’s complete name, is the largest of thirty islands that conform the Archipelago of Chiloe which is located in the lakes region of southern Chile. Chiloe Island is also the second largest island in Chile, after the Isla Grande in Tierra del Fuego, and the fifth largest in South America. Its attractiveness relies on its beautiful landscapes, unique food, friendly people and mysterious legends. Because of the kindliness of the people and its undulating green hills Chiloe is called “The Ireland of Chile”.
Visiting Chiloe Island in Chile
If you are in the continent and want to visit Chiloe Island you will have to take a short ferry ride across the Chacao Channel and afterwards a bus will bring you to Castro, the capital city, which is located on the western side of the island. Once there, you will be surprised by the “palafitos”, colorful wooden houses mounted on stilts along the water edge. The view is astonishing, the whole city seems to be taken from a fairytale book. While you walk through the island you will see numerous wooden churches built on the 18th and 19th century, sixteen of which were declared Unesco World Heritage sites. Apart from the cities, you should visit the Chiloe National Park on the western side of the island and the Tantauko Park located on the southern shore. The last one is a private natural reserve owned by Sebastian Piñera, the actual president of Chile. In both parks you will be delighted by the wide variety of species specially by Chiloe’s foxes, birds, and whales that are on their way to Patagonia. You also can
‘t miss Kayaking in the channels of the island, this is an activity most tourists practice to admire the magic of Chiloe from the sea.
Chiloe is not a place to visit on a rush, if you really want to know the essence of this island you need to spend some days there and, fundamentally, interact with the islanders. This will not be difficult since Chilotes are known for its kindness and hospitality, they will be willing to invite you home and tell you about the sayings and legends of Chiloe passed down through generations. As they seem to live in another century they are not afraid of opening their doors to tourists and make them feel part of their community. Chilotes will introduce you to “curanto”, their typical food, which consists of meat, shellfish, potatos, milcaco (potato bread), vegetables and chapaleles (dumpling made from boiled potatoes and wheat flour). Don’t be surprised if they ask you to help them cook since its preparation is a social event in itself.
Legends of Chiloe
As an antique and lost island in the Pacific Ocean Chiloe has build up its own stories, myths and legends that captivate incredulous tourists. Chilotes narrate them proudly from generation to generation since they are part of their identity. Probably the most famous one is “Trauco”, this legend talks about a man, no more than 90 centimeters height, that lives in the forests. Despite being so small, he is very strong and carries a stone axe that uses to cut trees. His breath can kill men, and women feel really attracted to him. If they resist they will have erotic dreams until they finally surrender to this little man. This myth is usually used by Chiloe’s women to explain an unexpected pregnancy. Legends constitute an important part of Chiloe’s culture and they give the island an undeniable charm.
If you are willing to know everything about Chiloe’s customs and traditions try to visit this place on January or February when a huge number of traditional parties and events are celebrated in all the villages of Chiloe.
*Image of Osorno Volcano, Patagonia, Chile via Shutterstock
*Image of the island Chiloe, Chile via Shutterstock