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Destination Details

Chiloe Island, Chile

 

The Isla Grande of Chiloé is South America's largest island and among its most striking cultural anomalies. Divided by the gentle peaks of the Coastal Range, Chiloé's eastern and western coasts are two worlds apart. To the west is a wilderness of endless beaches, dune habitat, and temperate rainforests, much of it protected in one of Chile's most forgotten national parks. To the east are the scattered islands of the Chiloé archipelago, sheltered from Pacific storms, intensely cultivated, home to a traditional culture of subsistence farmers, fishermen, and craftsmen.
 
The Jesuit order made this corner of the earth their special responsibility, erecting schools and over two hundred elegant wooden churches, nine of which are protected as national monuments. A rich mythology - populated by strange trolls, sea monsters, and eerie ghost ships - is yet another mark of Chiloé's singular history.
 
Today, Chiloé balances wild, unbridled nature with one of South America's most remarkable traditional cultures. Renowned for its seafood, its woolen handicrafts, and the warmth of its people, Chiloé is still a largely unknown destination for walking and biking, fishing, paddling and birding.
 
The town of Castro, characterized by its fleets of yellow fishing boats and distinctive palafito houses built on stilts above the tides, is easily accessible and provides a full range of tourist services. The charming islands of the archipelago, meanwhile, can only be visited by boat or kayak.
 
With an area of 8,394 km2 (3,241 sq mi), Chiloé Island is the second largest island in Chile, after the Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, and the fifth largest in South America. It is separated from the Chilean mainland by the Chacao Strait (Canal Chacao) to the north, and by the Gulf of Ancud (Golfo de Ancud) and the Gulf of Corcovado (Golfo Corcovado) to the east; the Pacific ocean lies to the west, and the Chonos Archipelago lies to the south, across the Boca del Guafo. The island is 190 km (118 mi) from north to south, and averages 55–65 km (34–40 mi) wide. The capital is Castro, on the east side of the island; the second largest town is Ancud, at the island's northwest corner, and there are several smaller port towns on the east side of the island, such as Quellón, Dalcahue and Chonchi.

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