A place of rolling hills, meadowlands and forest pounded by the Pacific; a romantic ambience forged from spirituality and seafaring: Chiloé is how islands should be, distinct in its identity, loveably eccentric – a place apart and proud of the fact. From its distinctive seafood cuisine to the UN Heritage-listed architecture, fanciful folklore to rich wildlife, a thin sliver of sea and a world of differences separate Chiloé from the mainland. Perhaps more than anywhere else in Chile, the towns here offer an atmospheric setting that competes with the surrounding natural splendour. As the tide and briny mist rolls in, wander among the many gorgeous shingled churches and brightly coloured stilted houses that decorate the water’s edge; listen to the seabirds’ cries as the catch of the day is offloaded from returning fishing boats – Chiloé’s quiet maritime charisma has a way of enveloping visitors and lingers long in the memory.
Venture out to sea from Chiloé’s serene, green inland beauty and the pace of life quickens. The rich wildlife that dots the islets and rocky outcrops make for a great daytrip. You might catch sight of oystercatchers and shearwaters hunting on the wing, while pelicans gracefully glide over the water and the distinctive red-legged cormorant perches on craggy cliffs. But the stars of Chiloé’s birdlife have to be the penguins. Humboldt and Magellanic colonies are both found in these parts, and watching them totter on rocks or artfully exiting turbulent waters is a joy to behold. Make sure you look in the water as well: these well-stocked waters offer happy hunting grounds for otters and dolphins, sea-lions and even the occasional whale