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This 3 day Chiloe Island road trip itinerary will help you plan your trip in advance. With the best things to do on the island, where to stay and driving advice too. Get ready to explore a unique side of Patagonia!
Chiloe Island. Nope – we’d never heard of it either but we’re sure glad we didn’t miss out on it as we began our Patagonian adventure.
Having driven from the Atlantic coast and across the Andes we expected something special to greet us on our arrival at the Pacific Coast. This was after all marking the start of our Patagonian journey.
Chiloe Island may not have the tropical feel of the other Chilean Pacific island, Rapa Nui but it’s equally unique. At least for this part of the world.
Rolling hills, lush fields bursting with corn and potato harvests and remote, deserted beaches.
Here’s everything you need to know about planning a road trip in Chiloe Island.
Planning tips for your Chiloe Island road trip
Hiring a car in Chiloe
While there’s public transport on the island, the best way to get to all the places (and beyond) in this itinerary is by car. You can hire a car from Puerto Montt.
Always use a reputable firm because you need assurance the car is well maintained and your insurance is valid. Click here for a no obligation car rental quote.
Tips for driving in Chiloe Island
The mains roads between towns in Chiloe Island are in good condition. Once off the main routes, you’ll be driving on narrow country lanes. Take care as always and we recommend never to drive at night. Street lighting outside of the towns doesn’t exist.
Ancud, Castro and Conchi have fuel stations so keep topped up as you drive through these towns. It’s more difficult to find fuel stations in the countryside and on the islands, though not impossible.
Accommodation in Chiloe
Most accommodation in Chiloe centres around Castro. We’ve carefully selected some properties you can take a look at here.
Throughout this itinerary, we’ve included places to stay along the way. If you’re travelling in a camper van, you get the best choices. Just make sure you download the iOverland app before you get there.
Chiloe Island road trip itinerary
Total distance driven
283 miles / 453 kilometres
Day 1 – Ancud, penguins & forts
Catch an early ferry from Pargua for the 30 minute crossing onto the island. Make sure to keep an eye out for sea life – dolphins and sea lions hang out in Chacao Channel.
Spend the morning soaking up the laid back atmosphere in Ancud. Spend an hour or so wandering around the town, including the cathedral and nearby promenade.
Grab a late breakfast or early lunch Café Blanco, a real gem of a place! Don’t miss the hot chocolate, especially if you arrive on a renowned Chiloe rainy day!
From Ancud, drive to the pinguinera (penguin colony), the only place in the world to see both the Humboldt and Magellanic penguins together in the wild.
You can arrange a short boat trip to take you out to the rocky islands just off the coast. They’ll even provide all-weather clothing too.
If you want to save your cash, you can see the penguins here with a decent pair of binoculars.
Spend the rest of the afternoon at Fuerte Ahui, the last Spanish stronghold in South America.
Chances are you’ll have this place pretty much to yourself. So once you’re through with exploring the canons and walking trails head on down to the deserted beach below for an idyllic end to the day.
59 miles / 94 kilometres
Where to stay
Camper vans and campers can stay of the beach for free. For everyone else, you’ll need to drive back to Ancud. This adds 23 miles (37 kilometres) to today’s drive but reduces it by the same for tomorrow.
Check availability for accommodation in Ancud on booking.com.
Most stretches of road on this section are single-track, narrow country lanes and the track down to Fuerte Ahui is pretty bumpy. Take your time.
Main points of interest
Ancud, pinguinera, Fuerte Ahui
Day 2 – Island hopping, world heritage sites and palafitos
Have a light breakfast before driving to Dalcahue. Although this is the springboard for the afternoon activities, and the artisanal market is worth a browse, Dalcahue is known for its fantastic cuisine.
Family run restaurants operate side by side. Here the Mapuche and Spanish influence combine into a unique fusion of yumminess.
Lashings of hearty soups, traditional curanto and paila marina – a seafood stew adorn the menus, all accompanied by hunks of homemade bread to soak up the juices. Heavenly.
After lunch, catch the ferry across to Quinchao island. The journey only takes about 5 minutes and the ferry leaves on demand so no need to book.
Quinchao island has a remote, desolate feel. With rolling hills, fields of crops and the occasional drizzle, we could have been in a Welsh village instead of on the other side of the world.
The island has a sprinkling of UNESCO recognised 17th century wooden churches. Take a few hours to drive the length of the (small) island, in search of a few of them.
Arriving in Castro, you’ll be treated to the sight of the colours of the palafitos houses popping in the evening light. Built on stilts over the water and with direct ladder access to their moorings, these images are iconic to Chiloe Island.
Take an evening stroll around the town too and check out the brightly coloured facade of the San Francisco Church. I’m not sure about the yellow and purple combination mind!
124 miles / 199 kilometres
Where to stay
For those fortunate enough to travel in Chiloe in a camper van or with camping gear, you could choose to stay on Quinchao island overnight. We stayed at a beach (for free), Playa Traiguén.
If you choose this option (and of course we’d recommend it), it’ll slow you down so you may need to add a day onto this itinerary.
The main road from Ancud to Dalcahue is in good condition. The roads on Quinchao are all pretty narrow and have lots of blind bends. Again, take your time.
Main points of interest
Artisanal market and food hall at Dalcahue, Quinchao churches and the wonderful palafitos in Castro
Day 3 – The Dock of Souls to the end of the Panam
The final day of this Chiloe Island road trip involves a bit more exercise.
Grab your walking boots, a flask of something warm and drive to Chiloe National Park.
While the national park is massive there’s a couple of accessible walking trails to hike on the island’s west coast. Spend a couple of hours here exploring where sand dunes, dense forests and the Pacific Ocean meet.
You could easily add another day onto your trip to explore the park on horseback or take on some of the longer trails.
Don’t miss the Dock of Souls art installation on the coastline here. According to local legend, after someone dies, their spirit travels to this place and calls the Tempilkawe, a mythical creature that sails in a ship.
For a fee (a few precious stones buried with the dead), Tempilkawe collects the souls of the dead and carries them across the water into the next life.
But, as in every legend worth its salt, Tempilkawe refused passage to some souls and here they remain.
Tormented for all eternity, their mournful wailing of the lost souls can still be heard in this place. Or is it sea lions barking you can hear?
Once you’ve worked up an appetite on the blustery west, head back to the sheltered east coast to the town of Conchi.
Conchi is a wonderful fishing village. Like much of Chiloe Island, the houses are all made from wood. Stop here for a fresh fish lunch in one of the dockside restaurants. Or if you’re camping, buy some fresh mussels, crab and fish for your beachside camp dinner.
The final leg of the road trip on Chiloe Island is to the kilometre zero monument of the PanAmerican highway in Quellon. Don’t let the fact there’s another 2 monuments to the same thing in Patagonia put you off!
100 miles / 160 kilometres
Where to stay
If you’re in a self contained camper van, overnight parking at the PanAm monument is possible.
Ferries cross to Chaiten a couple of times a week from Quellon. If you need to spend the night in Quellon, there’s a small number of simple hostels and guest houses in the town.
If you plan on heading back towards Puerto Montt, you can always stay in Castro again to break up the journey north.
Main points of interest
Muelle de las Almas (The Dock of the Souls), Conchi & end of the PanAmerican highway
Don’t forget to check out our definitive guide to Chilean Patagonia while you’re here
We loved our time on Chiloe Island. It’s off the beaten track as far as Patagonia travel goes because most travellers heading south stick to the northern stretch of the Carretera Austral. We think Chiloe Island brings something unique to Patagonia you really shouldn’t miss.
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