Ancud and around

Situated on the northern coast of Chiloé, 34 km west of the Straits of Chacao, Ancud lies on a great bay, the Golfo de Quetalmahue. It is a little less characterful than some of the other towns on the island but is nevertheless the best centre for visiting the villages of northern Chiloé. There is a friendly small-town feel; everyone knows each other and everything happens in its own time. Tourism is slowly reviving Ancud's fortunes following the disaster of the maremoto in 1960. Within striking distance are white-sand beaches, Spanish colonial forts and an important colony of Magellanic and Humboldt penguins.

Getting there

There are buses every 30 minutes from Castro and Quellón, and hourly from Puerto Montt.
Cruz del Sur
have buses to and from Valdivia, Temuco and Santiago (several daily). There are two bus terminals, the Terminal Municipal, on the outskirts of town, 1.5 km east of the centre, and the much more convenient Cruz del Sur terminal.

Getting around

Ancud is big enough for you to want to take the occasional
colectivo
; there are many of these, with their destinations signed on the roof. Rural buses serve nearby beaches and villages.

Ancud

The port is dominated by the
Fuerte San Antonio
, the fort where the Spanish surrendered Chiloé to Chilean troops in 1826. Close to it are the unspectacular ruins of the Polvorín del Fuerte (a couple of cannon and a few walls). A kilometre north of the fort is a secluded beach,
Arena Gruesa
, where public concerts are held in summer. The small fishing harbour at Cochrane y Prat is worth a visit, especially towards the end of the morning when the catch is landed. On the road west, along the coast, you can see concrete pillars, remnants of the old railway, destroyed by the 1960 earthquake.

Near the Plaza de Armas is the Museo Regional, www.dibam.cl/sdm_mr_ancud, with an interesting collection on the early history of Chiloé. It also displays a replica of a traditional Chilote thatched wooden house and of the small sailing ship Ancud, which claimed the Straits of Chacao for Chile, pipping the French to the post by a day. In the patio is a skeleton of a blue whale. There's a good craft shop and café on site and activities for children are provided.

The Faro Corona lighthouse lies 34 km west of Ancud along a beach, which, although unsuitable for swimming (absolutely freezing water and dangerous currents), offers good views with interesting birdlife. There isn't much there so take something to eat and drink. To the south is Fuerte Ahuí, an old fort with good views of Ancud.

East of Ancud

Most people travelling to Chiloé will arrive in
Chacao
on the north coast. The town has a small, attractive plaza; and there's a pretty church and old wooden houses in Chacao Viejo, east of the port. Black-necked swans arrive here in summer from their winter habitat in Paraguay and Brazil. The
Panamericana
heads west from here to Ancud, while a coastal road branches south, towards Quemchi. Turn north off the
Panamericana
along the coast to reach
Caulín
; the road is only passable at low tide. There are good beaches here; in Caulín you can see many black-necked swans in summer and flamingos in autumn.

Pumillahue

Pumillahue is 27 km southwest of Ancud, on the Pacific coast. About 10 km before is
Mar Brava
, a vast, deserted curved beach, wonderful for horse riding. About 3 km away from Pumillahue at Puñihuíl, there is colony of both Humboldt and Magellanic penguins as well as sea otters, sea lions and a wide range of marine birdlife, situated on an island facing the beach. Guided tour with local fishermen (in Spanish and often with exaggerated hand gestures making up for the lack of informed commentary).

South of Pumillahue a poor road continues south some 5 Km to Duhatao. From here it is a a wild coastal walk of seven hours to Chepu . The route is difficult to follow so take extra food and a tent and wear light-coloured clothes in summer to protect against tábanos (horseflies).

Chepu and around

Twenty six kilometres south of Ancud, a dirt road heads west from the Pan-American Highway to the coast at Chepu, famed for its river and sea fishing. It is a base for exploring the drowned forest and the waterways of the Río Chepu and its tributaries (a result of the 1960
maremoto
). There is a wide range of bird life here and excellent opportunities for kayak and boat trips and horse riding. Chepu is also the entrance to the northern sector of the
Parque Nacional Chiloé
. From here, it is a 1½-hour walk to Playa Aulén, which has superb forested dunes and an extinct volcano. At
Río Anguay
(also known as Puerto Anguay), there is a campsite and
refugio
.

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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