The Chiloé archipelago enchants visitors with its hospitality, traditional houses on stilts, steaming fish stews cooked in the ground and the mythical figure of the Thrauco. The Spanish conquerors were awed, so too the Jesuit missionaries and the various groups of European colonists who landed there. Today, Chiloé attracts national and foreign tourists who seek to immerse themselves in the island’s magical culture, where nature and tradition have been maintained over centuries.
Chiloé displays a unique architecture, with colonial-era wooden churches in Achao, Chonchi and Quinchao that have been declared World Heritage sites by UNESCO. This building technique was taught by the Spanish Jesuits during the conquest more than four centuries ago; the houses with larch shingles and the palafitos, typical constructions on stilts above the water, are not found anywhere else in the world.
Rivers, streams, lakes, lagoons, inlets and coves, beaches and canals have always defined the life and culture of the people of Chiloé, through fishing, harvesting shellfish and navigation.
Chiloé is known for its wickerwork, stone fireplaces and its warm clothing of hand-spun wool, dyed 100% naturally with plants and vegetables, following techniques passed down from generation to generation.
When it comes to food, Chiloé’s varied cuisine is presided by curanto, a stew of shellfish, fish, potato and meat, cooked in a hole in the ground covered with the leaves of the Chilean rhubarb. Also typical are the oysters of the Caulín oyster farm, the crabs of Quellón, the golden liquor of Conchi, the traditional pancakes milcao and chapalele, and apple cider.
Chiloé’s irregular geography has created stunning landscapes: to the east, green hills and tranquil waters; and to the west, the immense and powerful Pacific Ocean which pounds the rocks of the coast. This is the scene of rich biodiversity which so impressed Charles Darwin in the 19th century, this exuberant nature which even today is home to species such as the “mountain monkey,” a marsupial, the Andean antelope (pudú), as well as trees such as the native ulmo, conifer, cinnamon laurel and Chilean beech, which evolved in isolation, forming animal and vegetal species endemic to this vast southern continent.