Isla Grande de Chiloé, Chile - Stein Travel

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Welcome to Isla Grande de Chiloé

Chiloé is South America's largest island, 112 miles (180km) long and 31 miles (50km) wide. It is a wild and beautiful place but one of Chile's poorest areas with most of the populace scratching a living out of farming or fishing. It has rich folkloric traditions and a wealth of mythology that has contributed to Chilean literature, involving trolls, sea monsters and ghost ships. Another mark of the Chilote culture is the distinctive craftwork that is produced, especially those made from wool.

Featuring a characteristic type of architecture, the forested countryside is scattered with more than 150 wooden churches from two centuries ago, the estuaries are lined with quaint palafitos(stilted houses) and the small towns feature wooden shingled buildings. Most of the Chilotes live within sight of the sea and picturesque scenes of colourful wooden boats are commonly visible through the rain and mist. Seafood is a common part of daily life and the freshest daily catch is always available at local restaurants and markets.

Renowned for its damp weather, Chiloé balances wild natural beauty with the warmth of its people and their culture. As it is still largely an unknown destination, the adventurous traveller can discover an untouched part of Chile that is special in a different way, especially in the main town Castro, or in the wonderful national park on the pacific coast, Parque Nacional Chiloé.

The official language is Spanish.

The local currency is the Chilean Peso (CLP), which is divided into 100 centavos. Visa, MasterCard, Diners Club and to a lesser extent, American Express, are accepted in most large shops and hotels. Travellers cheques, particularly in US Dollars, are welcome in major towns, where there are banks and cambiosoffering currency exchange services. ATMs are widely available.

Mainland is GMT -4 (GMT -3 from October to March). Easter Island is GMT -6 (GMT -5 from October to March).

Castro is the main town on Chiloé Island, famous for its colourful rows of palafitos (stilted houses) lining the estuaries, excellent seafood and traditional handicrafts. With an eclectic blend of Chilote culture and modern development, Castro is a popular summer destination for Chilean and Argentinean tourists and has a laid back holiday feel to it. One of the town's most interesting features is the San Francisco Church, painted in dazzling pastel colours. The town itself is full of interesting sights however, including craft markets, the regional museum, and the MAM Gallery. There are a range of restaurants and shops, and a few bars and clubs to keep the fun going at night. The town also provides access to the nearby islands of the Chiloé archipelago and the Parque Nacional Chiloé.

Following in the footsteps of Darwin after 150 years, the visitor will find an isolated but wildly beautiful assortment of rolling hills, native forests and pristine coastline in Parque Nacional Chiloé. It is home to the Chilote fox, the rare pudú (miniature deer) and over 100 species of birds, including the Magellanic penguin. The park offers a variety of walking trails, through forests and under twisted tepú trees, along miles of unspoilt coastline or along nature trails that lead up onto the hills for superb views of the surrounds. One of the draws of the hiking trails in Chiloé is the wide selection of short hikes, making it a good activity even for visitors who aren't in the best shape. The park is also home to several Huilliche Indian communities. The information centre at the entrance has good displays on the flora, fauna and the traditions and folklore of the Huilliche people.

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