The home of the Huilliche Indian tribe, the island was settled by the Spaniards who thought it a hardship post as supply ships from the Viceroyalty of Peru arrived only once a year. The Indians lived by farming and fishing, as the current residents still do. The eastern side of the island, facing the mainland of Chile across the Golfo de Ancud in the north and Golfo de Corcovado in the south, is broken up into a myriad of coves and inlets. The offshore islands are a haven for wildlife. The western side of the island, facing the Pacific Ocean is remote, with only two roads leading to it. The interior is heavily forested.
Part of the attraction of Chiloe is the wealth of mystery and folkloric legenda and myths that permeate the misty, foggy reaches of forest and remote beaches. The mythical lore results from the cultural mix of ethnic beliefs and the Catholic faith brought to the island. There are ghost ships, goblins and witches who dine on recently interred corpses. Two popular legends are the beatufiul nude mermaid, La Pincoya who lures men to the sea, and a short, squat ugly troll, El Trauco, who lures women to the forest and impregnates them. It's a handy explanation, with no questions asked, for men coming back from the sea... .
Isolated for many years, the residents, called Chilotes, developed self-reliance, but many have left the island for a more secure lifestyle. Those remaining continue their traditions and are slowly building up a tourist infrastucture. Chiloe is becoming an increasingly popular destination for walking, biking, fishing, paddling and birding.
Chiloe's three main towns, the new capital Ancud is in the north, Castro, the former capital, on the east, and Quellón on the southern tip, offer most of the island's tourism amenities, but a visit to the smaller communities, particularly to visit the islands many churches, built first by the Jesuits and then the Franciscans, is worth your time. There are several hundred wooden churches, using pegs instead of nails, and many are listed by UNESCO as cultural heritage sites.
Base your stay in Castro, founded in 1567, Of particular interest:
Of particular interest in Ancud, founded in 1767 to protect the cdoastline: