I seem to have a particular fondness for island destinations. Take Easter Island, for instance, or Isla del Sol in Bolivia, two of my favourite places in South America. Maybe there’s something about islands that just speaks straight to my introvert soul? Like the feeling of being away from it all, the peacefulness and calmness of island life.
Or maybe, the ones I’ve been to are just exceptionally pretty.
Last year, I added another island to this list: Chiloe. Chile’s second-biggest island is close to Puerto Montt, the gateway to Patagonia. If I had to describe it in one word, the choice would be easy: idyllic!
Everything about Chiloe was idyllic. The green pastures with happy cows and sheep, the blue water, the colourful wooden houses of the locals. I mean, how can you be in this environment and not absolutely fall in love with it?
So let me show you the most beautiful corners of Chiloe island.
The capital Castro
Castro is the main town of Chiloe island and the place where I spent my first 10 days on Chiloe, before moving to Ancud.
The most famous attraction of the town is the Palafitos, colourful wooden houses rising out of the water on poles. You can see them at several points in Castro, but the best view you get from the Mirador Gamboa.
Talking of houses: one famous tradition of Chiloe is the moving of houses. Entire houses, that is. The whole community would come together to literally drag the building to its new location. Afterwards, there’s a big party for everyone involved with plenty of food. This tradition is called
The rest of Castro is no less colourful than the Palafitos. Especially the church is an eye-catcher. Then down by the harbour, you find the artisanal crafts market with lots of locally produced clothing and souvenirs. If you move past the outer stalls into the market hall, the crafts become a bit less touristy – i.e. looking like they do on every artisan market across South America – and more authentically Chiloe. This is where I got my comfy woollen jumper, which kept me warm during my travels through Patagonia!
Around Castro: visiting the small cities
There are quite a few charming little towns up and down the coast from Castro. They’re all connected by public buses, so even without a car, you can get there quite easily.
Most of those places don’t feature too many attractions, but they usually have a colourful church, as they are typical for the island, as well as a harbour area and/or a beach. Sometimes, there are interesting little museums, showing what life used to be like on Chiloe. I specifically liked the one in Chonchi.
You can also access some smaller islands that are cushioned in between Chiloe and the mainland. Those close enough to Chiloe are connected by ferry, and the public buses go there as well. I visited Achao on Isla Quinchao to take a walk along the waterfront.
I also visited Isla Aucar. It’s too tiny for anyone to live there, but it does have a cute little church and some nice views over the surrounding bay. If it isn’t raining in buckets as it was during my visit, that is.
The national park on the west coast
When you’ve had enough of the town and want some nature, look no further than the Chiloe National Park. It’s on the west coast of the island and again, you can get there by bus.
The reserve isn’t overly huge, but they have some nice little walks, with information plagues along the way to tell you about the different flora and fauna of Chiloe. You can also go down to the beach, though it was a bit too windy for my taste to stay there long.
If you have more time, there are also longer trails going deeper into the National Park. Or you jump on the bus taking you a bit further South along the coast to the Muelle de las Almas.
The buses don’t go too often and it’s a bit of a bumpy ride. After the bus ride, you need to walk down to the cliffs, where you find the wooden walkway looking out over the Pacific. The art installation, whose name means “Dock of Souls” in English, was inspired by a local folktale (you can read the legend behind it in this Atlas Obscura article). It may take some time to get to because of its remoteness, but it’s surely one of the most beautiful places on Chiloe island!
The north: Ancud and the penguins
Ancud is Chiloe’s second-biggest city, sitting in the very North-West of the island. I came with high
Most importantly, from Ancud it’s only a short way to the Pinguinera of Puñihuil. These little islands just off the bay house penguin colonies for part of the year, because they come here to lay eggs and raise their babies. I went there with from my hostel with our host as a guide, as it was easier and faster than taking a public bus. However, that is possible too. The bus only leaves once a day, so plan accordingly.
Once in the bay, we jumped on a boat and took a ride around the islands, spotting plenty of seals. It wasn’t quite the main season for penguins, unfortunately, so we only saw three of them. However, we did encounter a lonely dolphin who swam around our boat and followed us around for quite some time. We all felt that more than made up for it!
Chiloe was like balm to the soul. It was pretty, it was calm, it was everything you want from a relaxing, introvert-friendly holiday. Beautiful nature that you just have to share with
I wonder, maybe I should just always travel to islands if I need to relax…
Have you ever been to Chiloe? Do you share my island enthusiasm? Do you think some locations are better for introverted travellers than others? Share in the comments.