Shutterstock/44846236/jorisvoThe mysterious archipelago of Chiloé is one of the most fascinating areas of Chile. Consisting of one main island, officially known as La Isla Grande de Chiloé, and numerous islets, its rolling hills, covered in patchwork fields and thick forest, provide a lasting sense of rural calm. Here you are almost always within sight of the sea, with dolphins playing in the bay and, on a clear day, there are views across to the twisting spire of Volcán Corcovado on the mainland.

Just under half the population of 155,000 live in the two main towns, Ancud and Castro, and there are also many fishing villages. The Cordillera de la Costa runs at low altitudes along the Pacific side of the island. South of Castro a gap in the range is filled by two connected lakes: Lago Huillinco and Lago Cucao. Thick forests cover most of the sparsely populated western and southern parts of the island; elsewhere hillsides are covered with wheat fields and dark green plots of potatoes and the roads are lined with wild flowers in summer. East of the main island are several groups of smaller islands, where the way of life is even more peaceful.

Chiloé is famous for its legends and rich mythology; here witches are said to fly around at night, identifiable as lights in the dark sky. Chiloé is equally well known for its painted wooden churches, some of them dating back to the late colonial period. In January and February, most towns and villages celebrate their annual fiestas; traditional dishes, such as curanto, are served and there are rodeos and dancing, as well as much drinking of local chicha.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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