Chiloé Island

Typical church located in Chiloe Great Island in Chile

Typical church located in Chiloe Great Island in Chile

The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) (Isla Grande de Chiloé) is a group of islands formed by very pleated and a bit metamorphosed Paleozoic sediments, located in the southern end of Chile between the gulfs of Corcovado and Ancud.

The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island), of 111 miles long and 31 miles wide (the biggest of the country), borders the Piuchén mountain range on the West, and is covered by big masses of deposits of Quaternary glaciers, standing out the Captain Maldonado Hill (2,690 feet).

Separated from the continent by the Chacao channel, The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) has about 1.2 miles of width and its population is concentrated in the cities of Ancud and Castro.

History of Chiloé

Ten thousand years ago the islands were untouched by men. The first inhabitants of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) were the Chonos, an indigenous nomadic people who centered their activities on the use of the canoes, and who traveled with their boats (dalcas) along the interior sea in their daily adventure of fishing and extracting seafood. However, they started to become extinct until they disappeared as an ethnic group in the XVIII century, due to a forced assimilation process into the social and economic European system.

Later the Veliche or Huilliche arrived from Chiloé; they stayed on The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) until today. They are a farming and fishing nation that first shared with the Chonos and later forced them South. Their clear human and cultural presence for more than five hundred years, contributed to the customs, language and to the productive, recreational and social activities of Chiloé.

Both people native from The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) were the ones that dominated and populated these lands, and in contrast with other cultures that where subdued by the Europeans, the ones from Chiloé continue developing their ancestral traditions, many of which they shared with the invader during the entire Colonial period, and have survived until today.

Only 48 years after Colon made contact with America, in 1492, a Spaniard saw in the distance insular lands. Thus, coincidental, although not connected to the entry of Pedro de Valdivia to Chile, the sailor Alonso de Camargo, in 1540, saw the western coasts of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island). It was him the first sailor that sailed in these areas of the Pacific Ocean.

Chiloe Great Island, Chile

Chiloe Great Island, Chile

Valdivia, after founding, on February of 1552, the city that bears his name, continued South searching for the Strait with 150 soldiers. After crossing the region, he reached until the Reloncaví inlet and saw The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) from a distance. Only the chronic of Alonso de Góngora Marmolejo and a letter by Valdivia himself to the King have kept data from this expedition. The expeditionary troop traveled along the north coast of the Chacao channel (canal de Chacao), without being able to cross it; they observed from its shores The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) and others islands that can be seen, and went back after a brief exploration.

At the beginning of November of 1553, Francisco de Villagra, Lieutenant of Valdivia, who gave him the command of the austral exploratory excursions, had started traveling by land from the city of Valdivia with 65 men. In this expedition the Chacao Channel turned into barrier they couldn’t cross, so they returned back to the north by the banks of Reloncaví inlet, where he would have been together with Valdivia.

Coincidental with the exploration of Villagra, in October of 1553, Valdivia sent the Marshal Francisco de Ulloa, Captain of the forts Arauco and Tucapel, and the Pilot Francisco Cortés de Ojea from Concepción to sail in a exploratory mission in search of the strait.

Finally, for the first time the strait had been crossed from the Pacific to the Atlantic; an important route of communication between both oceans. They also got access to the coast of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) and the territories to the south of the de Chacao Channel

The stilt houses in Chiloé

The stilt houses (palafitos) of Chiloé are constructions over columns placed on the water, which were built in Ancud, Quemchi, Castro, Chonchi and other ports to obtain a better use of the banks during the strong commercial expansion of the XIX century.

The stilt houses develop their domains in a deep and concentrated manner. They have two fronts: towards the urban street, that’s communicated directly through a bridge; towards the channel, where there are two levels: a superior terrace that functions like a patio and an inferior level that functions around the rhythm of the six hours of the tides – when the domestic maritime chores are taken care of.

The islanders find in the stilts, a shelter from humidity and, at the same time, a vital nearness to the sea. Is in this way that the city of Castro, on the marine borders of the streets of Pedro Montt and Aguirre Cerda, has stilts houses and strong wood stilts, which depict the most austral manifestation of an architecture bordering the sea.


(Place of paunchy hills)

The city of Ancud is located in the northeast end of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island), at 689 miles of Santiago and 55.9 miles to the south of the city of Puerto Montt. Ancud is one of the most beautiful and better equipped cities of the islet with a population of about 40,000.

Its maritime rainy climate has favored the development of the tourist activity in Ancud, which is oriented to exploit its natural attractions. Among these, stand out the beaches of Ancud, where nautical sports, fishing and diving can be practiced.

The economy of the city of Ancud has been based for a long time on the agriculture of potatoes, the timber industry, and the current oyster cultivation and salmon breeding.

In Ancud, the narrow commercial streets, squares and oceanside roads embellish its environs. The architectonic style from Chiloé of wood small tiles is combined with modern buildings.

It’s recommended when you visit Ancud to see the San Antonio (Fort Fuerte San Antonio) that was built in 1770 over an esplanade protected by cannons that dominated the entry of the port. Here flapped the last Spanish flag in Chiloé, in 1826, and the penultimate of South America; six days after El Callao surrendered in Peru. It’s also indispensable to see the Huaihuén Hill Viewpoint (Mirador Cerro Huaihuén), which allows having an ample view of the city of Ancud. In front is the Chacao channel, with the Cochinos islet (islote Cochinos) and, further, the continent with its beaches, cliffs and the creek of Carelmapu (caleta de Carelmapu). To the north of the coast, Maullín with its rocky places and Doña Sebastiana and Horcones islets (islotes Doña Sebastiana y Horcones) can be seen. You can also see at a distance the Coronados Gulf (Golfo de Coronados). To the left there are the points Agüi and Corona, with its castle and battery ruins. Continue on the road towards the East until reaching a second viewpoint, where you will able to see the bay of the Pudeto river (río Pudeto), with its big bridges, fishing pier and yachts.

A must see in your visit to Ancud is the Blue Museum of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) (Museo Azul de las Islas de Chiloé) that exhibits in beautiful rooms and two open patios the cultural reality of the archipelago. It counts with two ethnographic rooms, with interactive spaces, where the culture and history of the people from Chiloé is exhibited thorugh their manifestations such as religious images and crafts. In one of its patios there are wood objects related to the labors in the island and a real size replica of the schooner “Ancud”, which took possession of the Magellanic Strait in 1843; the other patio is about mythology. In both spaces crafts are sold.

You must also see the Ancud market (mercado de Ancud), with its sea products and cancagua (sandy stone) chimneys. These can be delivered to Santiago through a local bus company. Also visit the Catedral and San Francisco churches.


(Red earth)

Quemchi is located in the northern coast of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island), at 89.4 miles from Puerto Montt and at 725 miles from the city of Santiago, Chile. The Quemchi town is very attractive due to its picturesque streets.

In your visit to Quemchi you will be able to travel along the oceanside road (costanera) and the Municipal Woven Fabrics Factory (Fábrica de Tejidos Municipal). It also stands out its famous miniature boats manufactured by a local craftsman. You can also see the mausoleum of the Coloane family, where the writer who was awarded with the National Prize in Literature, Francisco Coloane, was born.

The town of Quemchi has a library and a museum that are located in downtown. On the side you can find the craftsmen that work dying natural fibers.

The main sustain activities of the town of Quemchi are fishing and agriculture, besides the presence of the salmon industry.


(Auxiliary Port)

Quellón is located at 57 miles to the south of Castro, is the most southern town of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island) and it was founded in 1906 by the Distillery Company of Quellón, which was a pioneer in the elaboration of acetone, methyl alcohol and vegetal carbon. Quellón has a population of about 8 thousand.

Quellón is a point of embarking for the ferries that go to Chaitén and Aisén where the South Pan-American or Route 5 ends.

In Quellón the industrial and fishing activity is developed, since Quellón is the most austral port of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island); it provides all the urban services and receives all the products from the recollection of seafood to the south of the island.

In Quellón you must see the Municipal Museum exhibiting illustrations of the historical past of Quellón.

On Monday and Friday there’s a fair held in Quellón, where the locals sale nice crafts, just like in the crafts gallery of Llauquil, with crafts workshops dedicated to wooden bas-reliefs, wool woven fabrics and designs of figures created by the craftsmen in rattan fiber.

It’s also of interest during your visit to Quellón, to see the Inchin Cuivi Ant Museum (Museo Inchin Cuivi Ant), which means “Our Past” and that exhibits a interesting simple of objects and machinery of the Huilliche culture, with explanations about their history. There also are mills, interweaved stick fences, a cooking pit from The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island), a machine for grounding apples and a boat original from Chiloé. It’s worth the visit by all means.


(Slippery land)

Chonchi has a population of about 3 thousand. Chonchi is a beautiful small city which lies on a hill slope, also called the “city of three floors”. Chonchi dates from 1754, when the Jesuits settled here and started the construction of their church. The Chonchi village was founded in 1764 and prospered slowly. It reached its peak at the end of the XIX century with the cattle exploitation and the embarking port for timber. From that time dates the beautiful streets and houses of Chonchi, preserved as historical complex.


Aldachildo is one of the oldest towns of The Island of Chiloé (Chiloé Island). At the beach, besides the country villas lined up on the coast, there’s its high Chapel (Capilla), declared National Monument and Cultural Legacy of the Humanity; it’s calculated that it was built in 1910 on cypress and coigüe (Nothofagus dombeyi), covered with alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides). Its portico of 7 arches reminds us of the church of Dalcahue. Its interior vaulted ceiling is blue colored and splashed with yellow stars, and in between the arches that separate the central nave from the laterals ones there are flowers painted. It’s recommended to visit the Viewpoint (Mirador) that has the most beautiful view of the archipelago of Chiloé. On front, stand out the Quehui and Chelín islands (islas Quehui y Chelín); further behind, the Chaulinec group (grupo Chaulinec) and, on the background, in the continent, the Michimahuida volcano (volcán Michimahuida).

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