Chiloé Island is the largest island entirely within Chile. It's a popular place to visit especially among Chileans who come to appreciate the island character, the rural landscape, the seafood and the Unesco churches. The best time to visit the island is from December to March. . The island's tourist information has a great website in english with lots of information on sites, tours, excursions, dining, events, shopping etc. []
Chiloe is famous for myths and legends with roots in its native population but with some European influence. Even though the island was Christianized by Spanish conquerors (you can visit many of the Jesuit wooden churches all over the island) its inhabitants are also very superstitious. A singing, fair-haired beauty similar to the German Lorelei is called la pincoya. It is said that if she dances towards the coast the sea will bring a lot of fish. A ghost ship carrying the souls of wrecked sailors, similar to the Flying Dutchman, is called caleuche. And if someone tells you he or she was seduced in the forest, it might have been the fiura or the trauco, which is often blamed for venereal disease or an awkward pregnancy. A very pitiful figure is the invunche; as a baby his orifices, including his eyes, were closed and one leg was sewn to his back, so that he walks on three legs.
There are plans to build a bridge from the mainland to Chiloe island which should be completed in 2020. Many locals fear the island character will be lost when the bridge is completed. It's common to see "NO AL PUENTE" ("no to the bridge") written in grafiti on street signs and buildings, but the bridge nonetheless has generated strong support among local businesspeople and politicians who stand to benefit from increased and cheaper access to the mainland.
There may be a few people that know some English, or even Portuguese, but try to respect the culture. Languages other than Spanish are virtually unheard of outside of the principal tourist areas, so speak Spanish! Showing that you're trying means a lot and the people there will try to work with you! The local dialect is thickly accented, even by Chilean standards, but it's fairly easy to get by with just an intermediate level of Spanish as long as you're comfortable asking people to speak somewhat slowly. The locals are used to tourists with varying levels of Spanish proficiency so they won't have a problem lending you a hand.
Chiloe Island is located 1016 km. from Santiago and 90 km. southwest of Puerto Montt. To reach the island, you need to travel southwest from Puerto Montt towards Pargua, where you have to take the ferry across the Canal de Chacao. Ferries take buses and cars over on a regular basis, between 6:30 a.m. and 12 p.m.
The fastest way to get to Puerto Montt is by airplane, from P.Montt you continue to Chiloé. The non-stop flight between Santiago and Puerto Montt lasts approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes and there are at least four flights per day. LAN Chile now (November 2012) has flights from Santiago to Castro, Chiloé.
It takes 14 hours to travel between Santiago and Ancud by bus. Ancud is northernmost large city in Chiloé. A good level of service and comfort can be found on the buses which provide semi-bed and bed seats. For those who are not coming from more northerly cities such as Santiago and Valdivia, buses operated by a variety of companies depart from Puerto Montt's bus station with destinations across the island. It's uncommon to have to wait at the bus station in Puerto Montt for more than an hour if you're trying to get to Chiloé. The most common route is Quellón to and from Puerto Montt with stops in Castro and Ancud, which takes about five hours (though most people get on and off at intermediate stops).
Santiago to Puerto Montt by car takes approximately 13 hours, taking Route 5 south to Puerto Montt, then head southeast toward Pargua. At Pargua, visitors board the ferry which crosses the Canal de Chacao to Chiloé. The ferry ride lasts around 25 minutes.
The bus system is pretty effective. In order to get around with ease knowing some Spanish would help a lot.
Due to its comparatively central position on the island, Castro is the hub of intra-island bus travel. There are two main bus terminals in Castro. One is operated privately by Cruz Del Sur, which operates buses and ferries only between the larger towns on Chiloé island and cities such as Puerto Montt and Osorno. Cruz Del Sur represents a small but not insignificant minority of bus travel to, from, and within Chiloé. The other is the public bus station. Most buses to and from the mainland leave from this station, but the vast majority are small blue minibuses that run to and from nearly every town on the island. They are highly efficient and economical, but can get cramped. This bus station also has about ten kiosks with ticket vendors. Talk to them before climbing on the bus so that you can inquire about schedules and roundtrip discounts.
There are quite a few local sites to be seen throughout Chiloe Island. Since it was separated by water from the mainland, many of the local traditions have been preserved here, instead of merging with the Spanish culture after the conquest.
Seafood, seafood, and more seafood. Delicious and cheap! Curantos and Parrilladas are a must! There is also a modest livestock industry on the island, so steak and pork empanadas have also become popular.
Bars can be found in the main cities of the island, and also in the small touristic places like Cucao, Chonchi, etc. In Castro is possible to find bigger bars and clubs. typical drinks are Yerba Mate, wine, Pisco & Pisco Sour. Even the smallest convenience stores will sell beer and most will sell bottled wine and spirits as well.
Castro is a good base to explore the other parts of the island and to visit the nearby islands. Castro can get very busy in Januray and February. If in search for more quietness the other towns also have plenty of hospedajes and camp grounds. Only a small proportion advertise online or accept reservations.
Occasionally the water temperature in southern Chile rises sufficiently to create algae bloom. Consumption of some shellfish can cause paralytic shellfish poisoning .