In true Uys style we are leaving for a two week vacation on this coming Friday evening (in three days) and we have not yet booked bus tickets. We also still need to buy a backpack and a sleeping bag and mattress. We are borrowing a tent from our awesome French flatmate Cecile and I at least have new pair of short shorts for our trip.
While Dirk is away at some Python meetup (this has nothing to do with snakes, Python is a computer programming language) I am doing some research for our holiday during which we will tick of a few of the items on our Chile To Do List.
We intend to take a twelve hour overnight bus journey from Santiago to Pucon on Friday night. That is pretty much the extent of our planning. In Pucon we will probably camp, climb the legendary Volcano Villaricca (to slide down on the snow!) and take a dip in the hot springs. Three days might be enough for this.
From Pucon we’ll travel to Puerto Montt (hopefully stopping to look at Frutillar‘s black sand beaches) and from there we will need to get to Pargua to take a ferry across the Canal de Chacao (probably with Cruz del Sur) to Chacao on Chiloé island. Chiloé Island is located 1016 km from Santiago.
The following is an outline of what I think we should do on Chiloé (Is a week enough time?). I hope that my collection of thoughts and information can be helpful to others planning a similar trip.
Ancud, a city in the North of Chiloé, demolished by an earthquake in 1960 will be our first stop. Here we can visit the San Antonio Fort that boasts impressive views of the port. More importantly, we can take a boat ride to Puñihuil, 27 km south of Ancud, and watch the Humboldt and Magallanes penguins and view their nesting sites (maybe with Turismo Penhuen or Verdemar). A camping option in Ancud is at the Hotel Arena Gruesa close to Plaza de Ancud.
Chepu is close to Ancud. There’s a company called Chepu Adventures where you can do a self guided kayak tour and camp. I just love their website where they say that there are no shops to buy food and no discoteques. The most dangerous animal you will encounter there are horseflies. They have a special offer that includes Kayak at Dawn, Lodging (camps or Dorms – you need to bring your own sleeping bag), dinner and breakfast for CLP $35.000 ($70 USD) per person which seems a bit steep. On the website they note that river otters and coypus might ‘scort’ you while you visit their home river and wetlands. I have no idea what a coypus is and I only assume that ‘scort’ is a typo for ‘escort’. I don’t know if I’ll enjoy being scorted by a coypus. Hiking is a good activity to do here.
In Chiloé you must eat seafood and lots of it! My Chilean friend Oscar advised me to taste Curanto, a dish in which meat and seafood are cooked over hot stones that are buried in a hole in the ground. The meal is accompanied by milcao (potato pancakes) and chapaleles (dumplings), both made with local potatoes.
After the penguin trip, we’ll go to Castro, the biggest city in Chiloé. Here we will see colorful “palafitos” (wooden-tiled houses on stilts) along the water’s edge. The Puente Gamboa lookout offers the best view in Castro.
The Spanish Jesuits who came to the island around 1600 to evangelize the native people built wooden Chilota churches all over the island. 16 of the Chiloé churches have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The largest church is in Castro, Iglesia San Francisco de Castro, and has an orange-colored facade and steeples that tower over the main square.
Dalcahue is just 20 minutes away from Castro. Sundays are best to visit Dalcahue, so that you can go to the crafts fair. The main attraction is the Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores Church, which is covered in larch shingles. The highlight of the church is the painting behind the main door, depicting Jesus among the mythological figures of Chiloé.
From Dalcahue we might take a 20 minute ferry ride to Quinchao Island, where we can visit the picturesque towns of Curacao de Vélez and Achao, which is home to the area’s oldest church.
20 km south from Castro, we’ll find to Chonchi to look at the Church of San Carlos de Borroneo. The Living Museum of Chonchi Traditions sounds interesting as it houses exhibits that allow visitors to experience the Chiloé lifestyle. Chonchi’s “golden liquor,” (Licor de Oro) is made from milk and alcohol, and is only made in this one town. We’ll have to try some!
After Chonchi, we’ll head west along the shores of Lake Huillinco to the bay of Cucao. This was the place visited by Darwin in 1834 when he came to Chiloé aboard the Beagle. Cucao has an endless beach with the island’s lush green foliage as a backdrop. This is a great place for exploring or enjoying a picnic. From Cucao we’ll enter Chiloé National Park, which boasts eight hiking trails through leafy pristine forests that are home to over one hundred species of birds as well as the Chilean pudú deer and foxes.
Quellón is Chiloé’s southernmost city. I’d like to visit Parque Tantauco, west of Quellón, one of the 25 most biologically diverse places on the planet and the perfect destination for hiking and wildlife observation.
According to Frommer’s we’ll need a day or 2 to explore Castro, Dalcahue, Achao, and Conchi; and about a half-day to see Ancud (with a stop in Chacao). I’ll add two days to hike and camp the national park. We might just fit everything in…
Fantastic websites when planning a trip to Chiloé:
- The magical island of Chiloe, Chile (welovemountains.wordpress.com)
- Chiloe (jpveraise1.wordpress.com)
- Day 57 (1 of 2) – Parque Nacional Chiloe, Chiloe Island, Chile (bluelapisroad.wordpress.com)
- Chiloe – Castro, Chile (travelpod.com)