Chiloe, Patagonia, Chile

chiloe island scene

We had a day on the island of Chiloe. The landing craft that take one across the narrow strait to the island run continuously. Then you rattle round whatever part of the island takes your fancy. The population is small, and the number of its famous wooden churches is out of proportion to the number that you would expect. The lack of a roadbridge has helped preserve the way of life of the island, and you really do step back in time when you visit the island

Chiloé Island is an island off the coast of Chile, in the Pacific Ocean. The island is in southern Chile and the north of Patagonia, in the Los Lagos Region. Chiloé Island (8,394 km²), is the second largest island in Chile and the fifth largest in South America. It is separated from the Chilean mainland by the Chacao Strait to the north, and by the Gulf of Ancud and the Gulf of Corcovado to the east; the Pacific ocean lies to the west, and the Chonos Archipelago to the south. The island is 190 km from north to south, and around 55-65 km wide . The capital is Castro which is on the east side of the island there are several smaller port towns mainly on the east side of the island.

Perhaps the most significant thing that Chiloe has given the world is the potato. Historical records and DNA analyses supports the view that the most widely cultivated variety of potato in the world today, Solanum tuberosum tuberosum, is indigenous to Chiloe Island and was cultivated by the local people there before the Spanish came to Chiloe.

Chiloe has a humid, cool temperate climate. The western side of the island is rainy and wild, with one of the world's few temperate rain forests. Chiloé National Park is on the Island's western shore and includes part of the coastal range. The eastern shore, in the rain shadow of the interior mountains, is warmer and drier.

Spain took possession of the island in 1567, and established a settlement at Castro, which later became the home of a Jesuit mission, and was capital of the province until Ancud took over in 1768.

In 1784 Chiloé Island was made a direct dependency of the viceroyalty of Peru, while continental Chile was a captaincy-general within the viceroyalty.

Chiloe stayed outside the war of independence against Spain. And in 1817 the island became the last stronghold of Spanish loyalists fleeing from the Chilean mainland. A Chilean force under Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald failed to conquer it. On 15 January 1826 the Spanish eventually surrendered, and the island was fully incorporated into the independent republic of Chile.

Charles Darwin visited Chiloé during the summer of 1834–1835. During the colonization of Patagonia by Chile and Argentina, a lot of chilotes migrated to the mainland to work in cattle farming.

The Great Chilean Earthquake of 1960 destroyed the cathedral in Ancud and Castro was badly damaged. In 1982 Castro once again became the provincial capital.


Chiloe landing craft Oxen pulling seaweed off beach in Chiloe
You take an landing craft to get to Chiloe Animals still move seaweed off the beach. It is sold to pharmaceutical industry
Colourful fishing boats Chiloe Old wooden churches Patagonia
Colourful fishing boats Old wooden churches
Chiloe wooden church castro engine
Chiloe has a great many wooden churches Remains of Victorian steam engines
Cathedral in Castro Cathedral in Castro interior
Cathedral in Castro Cathedral in Castro has an all wood interior
Chiloe More wooden churches More wooden churches

Patagonia Journey