Chiloé

Just off the coast of the Carretera Austral sits Chiloé. Chiloé is made up of nearly 100 islands, of which only 30 or so are inhabited. Modern development is slowly starting to filter through to the islands from the mainland, but the way of life is still very traditional—people still live in houses on stilts on the shore, and there are wooden churches and chapels on every corner.

The main island, Chiloé, is the entry point for most tourists (by boat from Pargua on the mainland). Measuring 200 kilometers by 75 kilometers (124 mi by 47 mi), Chiloé is the second largest island in South America, after Tierra del Fuego.

Parque Nacional de Chiloé, on the west coast, is the reason most people visit (p. 376). The park is very accessible to visitors, with numerous hiking trails meandering through the dense coastal rainforest. Castro, the island’s capital, makes a good base for exploring the park as it is close by and tours can be arranged in the town (p. 370). You can also stay at Ancud, a lively little fishing town in the north, which is always bustling with activity and certainly worth a visit, even if you don’t spend the night there (p. 365).

All of the inhabited islands are visitable by boat, although some are harder to get to than others. Isla Quinchao and Isla Lemuy are just off the mainland, and easily accessible by bus. You can visit them in a day, but many people choose to stay a few days just to chill out and enjoy the slow pace of life.