Chiloé Island (8,394 km²/ 3241 sq mi), is the second largest island in South America, next to Tierra del Fuego. This surprising archipelago situated south of Puerto Montt, linked to the mainland by ferries, is definitely a world apart. Whether on dry land or in their remarkable boats, Chiloé islanders breathe the sea and the fascinating legends. Chiloé is an archipelago made up of many islands. Fascinating old churches, colourful local markets, knitted goods, woven baskets, ornaments and thick pure woollen blankets. Chiloé's unique and delicious local cuisine features Curanto, a local dish consisting of all sorts of shell fish, smoked meats and pork steamed over hot stones sunk into the ground. In part because of its physical isolation from the rest of Chile, Chiloé has a very particular architecture and local background. It has a rich folklore inspired by many myths and legends. The Spanish who arrived in the 16th century and the Jesuit missionaries who followed constructed hundreds of small wooden churches in an attempt to bring God to a pagan land. The result was a mixing of Catholic and pagan beliefs. In the year 2000 these unique buildings have been designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Pickup at the airport of either Puerto Montt or Castro for our transfer to the seaport town of Dalcahue. The town is named after native canoes called 'dalcas'. Dalcahue is still a thriving maritime centre for fishing, transport and aquaculture with boats of all types and colours at anchor along the waterfront. We can have lunch at the local market where fresh empanadas, fresh fish and island meat is offered. We'll visit the town church one of 16 UNESCO World Heritage sites on Chiloé before driving through the countryside to the capital of Castro. Here we will see the emblematic 'palafito' stilt homes where fishermen and seaweed collectors can park their boats underneath their homes. Castro's San Francisco church is also a UNESCO site and is a soaring gothic-style cathedral exclusively made of wood. We will check into a comfortable hotel located inside one of the palafitos; offering impressive views over the estuary. (L)
After breakfast we will visit the bustling local market of the city. Seaweed, smoked shellfish, fresh vegetables, and hand made cheeses are all on display. We will then drive an hour to the small fishing hamlet of Quemchi, whose brightly painted boats lay at anchor along the waterfront. Further south of the village we will find the Isla Aucar, 'Island of Sailor's Souls". Accessible only by a footbridge, the island is a small botanical garden planted by a long standing priest who ran the chapel grounds. Continuing down the coast through the forests and farmlands, we will visit small fishing villages where wooden boat building and a life at sea are still frequent. UNESCO churches dot this coast, reminders of the area's missionary past when the Jesuits and Franciscans arrived with the first Spaniards in the XXI century. Optional lunch in local restaurant or family. In the evening we'll return to Castro. (B, L)
Today's excursion will be a short ferry ride away to visit the second largest island of the archipelago, Quinchao. The road goes along a high ridge in the middle of the island, offering panoramic views of the other islands of the archipelago and the glacier topped Andes to the East. The small town of Achao is home to the oldest of all the wooden churches- an intricately decorated and painted building made of the finest wood on the island. After lunch not included we will make our way back to Chiloe Grande and drop-off at the local airport or transfer back to Puerto Montt. (B)