We rented a car from Europcar for Valentine’s weekend and took a ferry from the mainland town of Chacao (about 45 minutes from Puerto Montt) with Cruz del Sur for the 30 minute, $11,300CP trip across the water. It was absolutely packed on the way to Chiloé but there were only 6 of us on the way back – guess nobody’s leaving Chiloé! Chiloé island is the second largest island in Chile and is famous for its 160 wooden churches – 14 of which are World Hertiage Sites. We wanted to get a bit of countryside therapy anyway and see something a little different so it was a perfect side trip. On arrival at the port we drove to the first big town, Ancud (about half an hour drive) for a quick look around and a bite to eat. We stopped off at La Botica de Café for a very tasty sandwich and some warming drinks. The main square, yet another originally named Plaza de Armas, has some fiercely random stone sculpture things like gargoyles – apparently there’s a pretty rich culture of witchery and the like here. The waterfront area isn’t very pretty so Ancud was really just a quick stop off on the way to pastures greener.
After Ancud we continued on to Tenaún and San Juan to see their churches (and to polish off some white chocolate raspberry magnums, delicious!), before continuing on to Castro where we found the central plaza prettily easily. Castro is dominated by the most colourful church on the planet – it’s just beautiful! It’s constructed with timber and the inside is lovely – definitely worth a wander in. There was a service on when we were there so we didn’t stay long. There are models of some other churches of Chiloé dotted around the inside of the church – probably a good idea to check these out to see if there are churches you definitely want to see. We took a walk downhill and ended up in a little plaza by the water, Plazuela del Tren, which was full of old train parts. It’s worth a wander down here, if only to see the cutest hotel ever – and it’s pink! A lot of backpacker accommodation is centred around the Palofitos Gamboa area (palofitos are houses on wooden stilts) and the main street here is E.Riquelme which houses Café del Puente, a worthwhile stopover if you like coffee, although be prepared for a long wait. We stayed in Quilán Cabanas ($50,000CP) with cable TV (!!) for our one night in Castro. We also took a drive to a church about 3 minutes away from Castro. It was just a quick stopover but it’s called Nercón and it’s worth checking out!
The following morning we continued to Chepu where we set up the tent for our second ever night of camping at Chepu Camping, which is run by the loveliest man who just has to be 120 years old. Getting to Chepu wasn’t terribly easy; we had rented a Hyundai Accent and let’s just say that the gravel roads here are much better suited to a 4×4. I honestly thought we’d have the whole car scratched and dented but thankfully all was well. We took a drive and a little walk to Chepu’s sand dune area where we promptly made friends with an uber-sized bee who made it his business to show us around. We then took in the sunset by the water just next to the campsite.
Note: I seriously would not recommend going to Chiloé without a car. There are countless backpackers thumbing all over the roads with the most frustrated of looks on their faces. It’s difficult to get to a lot of places here without your own transport too.
Next stop: Punta Arenas and Isla Magdalena (penguins!!), Chile