It’s not safe to travel yet, but it is the perfect time to start planning your dream holiday in Chile. For anyone dreaming of summer holidays post covid, I reckon Chiloe in southern Chile is pretty hard to beat. And to whet your appetite, here are my top ten things to do on Chiloe island.
1. Sleep in a cabaña
Cabañas are log cabins and they’re the best way to experience Chiloe.
We spent a good part of our holiday around ours, revelling in country life outdoors or snuggled by the fireside on an evening. The view from my bedroom was picture perfect.
Check around on Airbnb before you arrive for the best offers.
2. Spot penguins
The main reason we came to Chiloe island was to see wildlife, and in particular, penguins. A short boat ride from Punihuil beach in the north takes you to the penguins’ natural habitat. From here you can watch these fluffy darlings without invading their private space.
Punihuil beach has a lot of simple, but decent fish restaurants too, so it’s worth making a day of it. Read more about penguin watching here.
3. Ride the wooden train
If you have small kids and you’re staying in the north, take a trip on the wooden train. It’s basically a tractor on wooden tracks which runs through a forest, but it made my kids’ day.
It’s not a full day trip, and only takes a few minutes. However the surrounding countryside is so beautiful and it’s definitely worth a stop off in you’re in the area.
4. Enjoy a lazy lunch at Mercadito.
Mercadito is a hip, but relaxed restaurant in the pretty town of Castro.
A creative menu with lots of fresh fish, accompanied by great wines and a chilled vibe makes for a wonderfully lazy day. A top thing to do on Chiloe island!
5. Try Curanto
For a more traditional Chilean experience, give curanto a go.
Curanto is the national dish of Chile, served in restaurants on Chiloe island. The dry stew of meat, seafood and fish is buried underground with hot coals and served up to the cheer of onlookers later on. I don’t even eat meat, but it was definitely on my list of things to do!
6. Eat oysters
For another taste of Chiloe island, try oysters. We ate at Ostras Caulin, an off the beaten track restaurant which is very popular with locals.
The restaurant sits opposite a blissfully quiet beach, with just a few fishermen for company.
7. Head to the beach
As the name suggests, Chiloe island is surrounded by beaches. And these beaches come in all shapes and sizes. Deserted white sandy plains stretching out to calm waters as well as rugged cliffs with crashing waves… there’s something for everyone.
We visited in high season and even in the most touristy places we found a space for ourselves.
8. Stop for onces
In Chile, ‘onces’ means elevenses, but it’s typically served in the afternoon. And Chiloe island is a great place for onces. The island is home to many generations of German immigrants, who brought with them not just chalet style architectural design but also famous cake recipes.
We stopped for tea and cake in a charming tea rooms called Cafe Amarathine. It had a beautiful garden to the back and great views of the water to the front.
9. Take in the architecture
Wooden churches, bright houses on stilts which look as if they may topple at any moment and German style chalets… Chiloe island offers an eclectic mix of architecture.
Drive around yourself and soak up the vibe or sign up to one of many tours on offer.
10. Visit the mythological park
The mythological park is an exciting adventure for small kids, and it’s rather hilarious for adults. The tour guides really get into the spirit, leading you on a trail of junk fashioned into mythological creatures from Chiloe folklore.
Most of the characters seemed to be sexually obsessed, but thankfully it was all lost on my kids who were genuinely scared of socks painted as snakes.
Visitors pay only a tip to enter, so we ended up buying a bulk load of jam to compensate for all the giggles. Alas the tour is only in Spanish.
We were staying in the north, so most of my recommendations are mostly focused on this northern part of the island. Here’s a map:
Any questions? Leave me a comment below and I’ll get back to you.