Chiloe Island

The Chiloe Island (or Isla de Chiloé) is the largest island of the Chiloe Archipelago and the second-largest island in Chile, dwarfed only by Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. Located in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Chile, the island of Chiloe features a humid and cool temperate climate. It is home to Chiloe National Park, with its Valdivian temperate rain forests. On a visit to Chiloe Island, tourists can visit the national park, explore craft markets, see unique architecture, and taste the local seafood-based cuisine.

The two main towns on Chiloe Island are Castro, the capital on the eastern side of the island, and the northwestern town of Ancud. Castro, the capital of the Chiloe Province, is Chile's third-oldest continuously occupied city. Those visiting Ancud Chile can explore the Museo Regional de Aurelio Bórquez Canobra, also called the Regional Museum, which displays cultural and historical objects, photographs, art, maps, and scale models of the famous historical churches of Chiloe Island. Ancud Chile is also a place to find pottery, carving, woolens, and other crafts. Another town to visit is Quellon Chile, a city and port on southern Chiloe Island that is sometimes considered the end of the Pan-American Highway. The island of Chiloe is known for its seafood, and this industry dominates Quellon.

The architecture of the Island of Chiloe—and in particular, its churches—draws many visitors to the island. Built in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries when Chiloe Island was filled with Spanish and Jesuit missionaries trying to convert the local population, the numerous wooden churches on Chiloe are considered an excellent example of how European Jesuit culture mixed with the traditions and skills of native residents. The churches are built with local timber and have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Travelers interested in the history of Chile are sure to enjoy a visit here.

The major natural attraction on the island of Chiloe is Chiloe National Park, located on the rainy western side of the island. The park includes areas of Valdivian temperate rain forests, swamps, and dunes, but the major vegetation is the dense Valdivian forest, which features evergreen southern beech trees, native conifers, and climbing plants. The Valdivian rain forest is one of the few temperate rain forests in the world, and this site provides visitors with unique chances for hiking and watching wildlife.

The island of Chiloe has a rich tradition of folklore and mythology, in part due to the separation of the Chiloe archipelago from the rest of Chile. The beliefs have roots in the religions and legends of the native population and those of Spanish conquistadors who began coming to Chiloe in the sixteenth century. Among the mythological entities in the Chiloe tradition are the Caleuche (a phantom ship), Trauco (a forest goblin), Pincoya (goddess of the Chilotan Seas), and Invunche (a monster).

With its port towns, architecturally significant churches, Valdivian rain forest, and unique mythology, the island of Chiloe is an interesting and unique destination to add to any Chile vacation. Whether you visit Castro or Ancud Chile, smaller port towns deeply immersed in the seafood industry, or the island's national park, any visit to the island is sure to be a memorable one.

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