Solo Trip Guide to Chiloé Island in Chile
Chiloé is the second biggest island in Chile and the biggest in greater Chiloé archipelago. It is quite secluded from the rest of Los Lagos region and has a distinct culture of its own with its famous wooden churches that are part of UNESCO world heritage. It is also a special place for me because I started my new year here amidst everything close with a bit of hunger and bad luck despite having money.
Read my country guide about Chile to find answers to all your questions for a comfortable trip.
Live Stories and Food Suggestions
Background; New Year in Chiloé
So the story goes, I booked my 2 and a half-day trip and arrived in the evening of 31st with every door firmly shut including all restaurants, shops, markets, tourist agencies, can rentals or any other place that could help me. Without any of this, I had no food, no means of transport, no going around and I was looking at 2 days of the same situation because I asked around and I was told everything would open again on 2nd morning which I did. My last dinner was a roadside sandwich and Diet Coke to flush it down and new year meal were some stale empanadas that put me off food so much I didn’t have dinner. Welcome to 2020.
It wasn’t all bad though and it provided me with a unique perspective, there are things money wouldn’t buy for me and I needed to invest in those things this year, new year well done!
So instead of the wider Chiloé guide, this is how I spent my 2 days in Castro and things I did and you can do here.
Castro is the capital and the biggest city on Chiloé Island and quite a beautiful but small place. It is full of those famous Profilatos (buildings standing on wooden pillars half in the water) and you will find plenty of spots to enjoy the views as well as get to eat or chill in one of these beautiful, colourful buildings, just like I did.
How to get to Chiloé and Castro?
Chiloé doesn’t have an airport of its own but it is quite easy to get here. The best airport to get to is Puerto Montt from where you can take a bus to Chiloé and Castro. I was coming from Puerto Varas and took a direct bus that went through Puerto Montt and Ancud which is another city on the northern tip of Chiloé. The journeys to Chiloé include a ferry trip which takes roughly 20-30 minutes and the cost is included in your ticket. It was the first time I met Pacific Ocean and perhaps it was the last exciting moment of this epic year. As we were approaching Chiloé, one thing was clear; this place is different from the rest of Los Lagos region because there are no mountains or volcanoes here. The roads within Chiloé are in mixed condition. The main highway roads are pretty good but connecting roads between smaller cities are in bad condition like most of Chile.
The total joinery time was roughly 5 hours for a 145 km trip. Ouch!
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Where to Stay in Chiloé?
The best place to stay in Castro. Not only it is the biggest and most beautiful city it is also perfectly positioned to venture both north and south and it is very well connected. I booked myself a cute little cottage near the city centre on the beach overlooking the beautiful beach. The houses here are small and cottage-like and very colourful. Most houses have a garden or a small patch at the front or on the sides planted with massive roses of all colour. Waking up the view of the beach with these roses was divine and the perfect way to start any day especially the one for a new year.
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When to Visit Chiloé and Castro?
The best time to visit is summer. It rains quite a lot here especially in winter and fall. It doesn’t snow here so for most part it is just cold and cloudy here being an island. I visited at the end of December and got the perfect glorious weather for 2 and a half days with great sunshine which gave me a chance to spend some time at the beach as well.
How long to stay in Chiloé and Castro?
To explore Chiloé you need 3-5 days because it takes time to drive everywhere even if you have your own cars and there’s so much to see and do here. For Castro a day and a half or 2 days are perfect to explore in and around this cute city.
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Food in Chiloé
Food is Chiloé revolves around the sea and what it offers.
There’s farm stuff here as well but seafood is the most common food here. Fresh ceviche from the fish market are the best thing ever. Another fun thing to try is Milcao which is like an empanada but the dough is made from potatoes and filling with meat. It is a traditional food item from here and it is quite heavy.
2 days in Castro and Chiloé; Best Things to do
See the Palafitos at Mirador Gamboa
Most people know Chiloé from the picture of Palafitos from this viewpoint. These colourful structures seemed to be half-submerged with a mirror image in the water. It was just that but a bit different. The best time to visit this mirador is in the morning when the light is behind you but this is the time of low tide and you can see very little water but the view is still incredible. The bright colours made it a beautiful view and I sat there with my morning green tea to take in the beauty of this place.
Hang out in the Palafitos
Head over to the profaliots next to find some interesting restaurants, bars and cafes to spend some time here. Most of them are very tastefully decorated. I managed to see only a few because things were close on the first two days and there was so much I could see in the next half day.
Try Fresh Ceviche at Fish Market of Castro
Nom nom nom! I absolutely love ceviche. From the first time I ate this beautiful dish made with raw fish, some veggies, lemon juice and oil, I fell in love with it in London and here was an amazing chance to try some fresh ceviche from the fish market of Castro. I chose octopus and salmon and the guy made it in front of me, it couldn’t get any better than that. If I lived here, I’d come here every day for lunch. There were a lot of locals eating there but if you are finicky about using other crockery or cutlery, you can ask for the disposable ones.
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Visit the Church of San Francisco and Plaza de Armas
The central square of Castro is called Plaza de Armas (I think every city has a central square with the same name). It is quite a big square for the size of Castro and has a beautiful fountain in the middle. There’s always something going on with a lot of people singing and dancing especially in the evening when a lot of families come. On one side of this square is a distinct purple and yellow building. This is the church of San Francisco.
As quirky as it looks because of colour, it is more fascinating to know it is entirely made of wood from floor to ceiling and has been standing here for almost hundred years.
The interior is polished wood with no crazy colours and beautiful decoration. It wasn’t very busy that morning and I got a chance to explore it in detail. It is one of the 16 wooden churches on the island which are part of UNESCO world heritage.
The peroquial house adjacent to the church is equally fascinating and is also made of wood with pristine garden in the middle. It has a very soothing presence just a few steps away from the busy life of Plaza de Armas.
Get a Tan on the Beach
It is not the sunniest of places and also not known for its beaches but when the weather is right the beaches are plenty. I spend a glorious summer afternoon on the beaches on the way to Nercon Church.
I was walking there when I saw some people sunbathing. It was too tempting to ignore and there was plenty of time to kill so I headed to a beach. The views were perfect, the sea calm and the sun shining throughout the day. There were local families chilling and picnicking with some good music. It made for good entertainment.
Walk along the Port and Promenade
The walk from the fish market to the port is an interesting one, the houses get more colourful, hostels, hotels and restaurants replace the houses and the roses also increase. You can see the other side of the same island with its farms and small houses dotted around. It is beautiful. In the evening the sun is at the beach and as the light gets less intense it becomes an amazing place to watch the sky change colour.
Do check out Mercadito de Castro restaurants which is very cute, has great ceviche and the perfect view of this place.
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Spa with a view
After some serious cycling I was in need of a deep tissue massage, my legs and calf muscles were killing me and luckily I got a reservation at the beautiful spa of Hotel de Castro overlooking the same view of the port. The massage was great and so was the view from the pool and from the lobby with some tea. First day of the year spent in style, check!
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Walk to Nercon church
This is the second wooden church around Castro and located some 2kms away from the main city centre but the walk to the church is scenic snd took me in total around 45 minutes (plus the 3 hours I spent at the beach). The church is a bit more solemn in terms of colour but still quite a unique building and this one actually looks like a wooden box. Its exterior is silver and blue. It was closed and apparently only opens at special occasions.
The gardens around were in great condition, I had bought some cherries earlier from the city which I picked on while admiring the beauty of this place. It was worth the walk. On the way back I decided to take the bus. The bus stop was right outside on the main road, it was linea 2 bus and the cost was 390 CLP for a ticket.
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Have you been to Chiloé or Castro? How was your experience?