Excuse the pun – I’ll blame Ben for that one. We hit the ground running in Chile & have been going non-stop since we landed, but lucky for us our next couple of stays were way more laid back than Santiago or Valpo.
Isla Grande de Chiloe located at the very end of the Pan-American Highway & accessible only via ferry is, literally spelled out, the Big Island of Chiloe. Over 100+ miles from North to South the island consists of rolling hills, lush farmlands & multiple fjords. Driving through it didn’t seem that different than driving through rural SW Virginia or Pennsylvania, minus the fjords & spectacular views coming down the mountains of course.
The ferry system is incredibly efficient & loaded every manner of car, truck, bus & emergency vehicles making the 30-min. crossing on & off the island. This was also our first chance to scout out some of the wildlife including a variety of birds, seals and we’re both pretty positive we spotted half a dozen penguins (Pingüinos!!) bobbing around in the water.
Much of Chiloe’s charm lies in its traditional nature; tourism has not yet taken hold here for foreign visitors & it remains a tucked away spot for Chileans to get away from the cities. Despite its vast shorelines & multitudes of lakes, motorized or pleasure boats are almost non-existent - the exact opposite of what you would find in most US locations of such beautiful waterways. Fishing & working vessels are the only boats you’ll catch out early in the morning before the very dramatic tide changes occur, leaving a few hundred feet of extra shoreline exposed during low-tide.
A couple of hours from the ferry, we reached our destination of Castro, a small but bustling town where many shoreline homes & eateries sat upon stilts above the water.
We spent two nights at the cutest bed & breakfast, Palafits Hospedaje, which only opened its doors a month prior. Palafits is the latest endeavour of Marcela & Nico who spend the winter months filming documentaries around the globe & past business ventures have included local coffee shops. A random twist of fate brought them to being B&B owner/operators in Castro and though its only been 4+ weeks, we think they are off to a fantastic start. You can tell they care a great deal about the comfort of their guests & put tremendous thought & effort into renovating the place. There’s plenty of comfortable seating to make each guest feel at home, fresh baked goodies are available each morning at breakfast, their well decorated back porch (overlooking one water inlet) is perfect to spend an afternoon relaxing or enjoying a night cap. Quirky touches include the artistic (also very helpful) chalk map outside the 2nd floor bedrooms & their wall collection of cassette tapes for your enjoyment.
The cozy feel & great food may have been the highlight of this trip for me, it was either that or the herd of sheep we nearly plowed into coming around a bend on the way to the lake. They were just going about their business & made their way around the car while we patiently waited – quite the surprise for us & the motorist behind us!
We spent our two days here relaxing, exploring Chiloe & the surrounding island of Quinchao (requiring an additional ferry ride to reach it), taking in the amazing views & lounging by Lake Huillinco after lunch at the quaint Café del Lago (recommended by our hosts & well worth the trip). The seafood, as one would imagine being on an island, was fantastic & we enjoyed various fish, Chilean salmon & mussel ceviche (big in this area) and a few local beers - eating well was not an issue! Chiloe is also known for its vast amount of churches & though we did not purposely tour them they are everywhere & hard to miss; plenty lined our drive to the lake, others were perched downtown & made for easy viewing while on a morning run.
It is highly recommended to make the trip if only for the churches themselves, though we can imagine in time the fantastic views & beautiful waters will begin to attract more & more visitors each year. We recommend a visit before it loses its chill… :-)