Isla de Chiloé, Chile
“In winter the climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better. I should think there are few parts of the world, within the temperate regions, where so much rain falls. The winds are very boisterous, and the sky almost always clouded: to have a week of fine weather is something”Charles Darwin about Chiloe Island
In the beginning of the 16th century the Inca Empire ended at Chiloe Island and a strange and unknown world began. I like going places that not a lot of people have heard of.
Chiloé is an archipelago in the Pacific Ocean composed of more than 40 minor islands, just off the Chilean coast. The archipelago was formed from lava and debris from the ring of volcanoes that cluster near the bottom of the world — producing scenery that can be other-worldly.
The Mapuche Indians and the Spanish lived there together for over three centuries. The culture in Chiloe is based on this relationship. There are many beautiful small wooden chapels and fascinating local mythology.
The Incas called it the place of seagulls. Up until recently it was only linked to the mainland by ferries.
Castro is the island’s main town. We saw the ‘palafitos’ (colorful houses on stilts) down by a beautiful lake, surrounded by rolling green hills.
The Incas were definitely right about the seagulls.
In Chiloe there is no excuse not to eat well. The food market in Castro is small but interesting filled with fresh local fruits and vegetables and plenty of fresh seafood. Chilean woman are surrounded by woolen sox, hats slippers and sweaters. There are strings of smoked dry mussels and boxes of multicolored potatoes.
Curranto is the national dish of Chiloe. Cooked in a hole in the ground covered with leaves, the dish consists of clams, mussels, smoked sausage, smoked ribs, chicken, and potato pancakes It is 6000 years old and the oldest dish in Chiloe. It is very delicious.
The people of Chiloe have been making clothes out of wool for centuries in the cold winter months. Sheep’s wool is a southern Chile speciality.
Dalcahue is about an hour from Castro. It is best known form its Feria Artensal Manos Chilotes and Sunday Market.
.Artisans here produce higher quantity handiwork than the commercial market.
Maybe the most representative local art is the one made with wood. Boats, houses, furniture and utensils highlight the work of the carpenters, who are artists in their construction of ships and fishing boats which are so necessary for both fishing and transportation.
A lot of rain falls here. It is green like Ireland.
There are sheep and cows throughout the landscape like New Zealand and Tasmania.
This time of year, there’s an added splash of color: bright yellow flowers known locally as espinilla coat the landscape, great for photographs but bad for agriculture — the plant is actually an invasive weed the islanders could do without.
Many of the buildings and houses on Chiloé also take advantage of the wooden architecture, and are often covered with wooden shingles called tejuelas cut from the native Alerce tree, to create roofs that can withstand the frequent rain showers in the region.
The more intricate the shingles, the fancier the people.
Our hotel, Tierra Chiloe is a perfectly designed wooden building with comfortable space and spectacular views.
Wooden furniture, Chilean books, woven baskets, woolen throws, wooden dishes and platters give an authentic yet modern feel. The food is some of the best I have had in Chile.
Every day we have excursions which include culture, nature and hiking. The staff is attentive and personable.
The hotel’s beautiful wooden boat called Williche took us to small fishing villages.
I brought home a lot of seashells.
All the guides were knowledgeable and fun. We spent most of our time with Gonzalo who bent over backwards to make sure we had an unforgettable experience.
Chiloe has a subtle beauty. It’s a place where it is quiet enough to take time away from the noise of your daily life to figure out what you really want. Sometimes what you really want is just to look out the window at the landscape.