If you’re arriving in Chiloe Island as part of your Patagonian adventure or simply for a short break, then you’re in for a treat in this unique, mythical land unlike anywhere else in Chile.
In our Chiloe Island road trip post, we shared our favourite experiences and places to visit on the island. And even a bit of island hopping too.
These are the essential things to know before you visit Chiloe.
Where is Chiloe Island
The 2nd largest Chilean island, (after Tierra del Fuego in southern Patagonia), Chiloe Island is a little over half way down Chile’s Pacific coast.
The island’s actual name is Isla Grande de Chiloé. Separated from the mainland by the Chacao Strait, the island is the largest of more than 30 making up the Chiloe archipelago.
That makes it prime for a spot of island hopping doesn’t it?
How to get there
There’s no bridge from mainland Chile across to Chiloe Island so the only way to get there is by ferry.
Puerto Montt is the closest large city. The ferry terminal is in Pargua, about 60 kilometres south of Puerto Montt – follow ruta 5 south NOT ruta 7.
Car ferries run every 15 minutes or so and take about 30 minutes to cross. There’s no need to book in advance either. Just turn up. If you’re unlucky, you’ll queue for a few minutes.
Payment is taken on the ferry in cash only.
Ferry tickets cost for a car 13200 CLP | $19 | £15 | €17 and 28300 CLP | $41 | £32 | €36 for a camper van one way.
If you don’t have your own vehicle, and haven’t rented one in Puerto Montt (which we’d highly recommend), regular buses run from Puerto Montt all the way to Ancud and Castro on the island.
The bus boards the ferry too and the $9 cost of the ferry crossing is included in your ticket.
If coming from Patagonia, Navimag operates ferries from Chaitén to Quellón on the south eastern coast of Chiloe.
The 6 hour crossing costs around 30000 CLP | $43 | £34 | €38 one way plus 111000 CLP | $160 | £126 | €141 for a camper van.
Ferries also operate further south from Puerto Chacabuco to Quellón, useful if coming from Coihaique.
Getting around Chiloe Island
Although Chiloe Island has some public transport between the main towns, we recommend hiring a car.
The main roads on the island are in good condition. The back roads become more narrow and you’ll even find a few tracks if you look hard. A 4 wheel drive vehicle is unnecessary.
A vehicle gives you the flexibility to cover a lot of ground in one day and still take advantage of all the photos opportunities along the way.
Island hopping in a vehicle from Chiloe to some of the smaller islands in the archipelago is a breeze and cheap too.
Where to stay on Chiloe Island
Castro is the most popular town in Chiloe Island. Located about half way down the eastern coast, it’s a perfect stopover and base for exploring the whole island.
There’s hotels, hostels, cabins and Airbnbs all available in Castro so choose to suit your travel style and budget.
Better still, if like us you tour Chiloe Island in a self contained camper van, you have a whole plethora of free camping options open to you!
Take a look at our personal selection of accommodation from hotels and cabins to Airbnbs and campsites on Chiloe.
Get $43 off your first adventure!
Grab an Airbnb for a home away from home.Continue Reading
iOverlander | Find your next destination
A must have resource for any road trip or overland adventure.Continue Reading
For all your hotel, guesthouse and hostel bookings.Continue Reading
Weather and the best time to visit Chiloe Island
When Charles Darwin visited Chiloe Island, he said, “In winter the climate is detestable, and in summer it is only a little better…”
Hey, this is Patagonia after all so you have to expect temperamental conditions. In fairness, it’s not as bad as Darwin made out.
Winters is wet. Very wet. April to September sees Chiloe’s rainy season and temperatures fall to around 5°c to 9°c. While you can visit Chiloe year round, avoid June if you don’t like rain.
Summer conditions feel far more respectable with temperatures in the low 20s°c and with much less rainfall.
Even so, it can rain year round on the island so make sure you pack for inclement weather, especially if you plan to go hiking. Waterproofs are a must!
December to March, the Chilote summer, is the perfect time to visit. Because Chiloe is yet to become a major tourist attraction, it doesn’t feel overcrowded even in the height of the season.
How long do I need to visit Chiloe Island
The road running the full length of Chiloe Island is only 200 kilometres long. And at 65 kilometres wide, you don’t need weeks to explore the entire island.
We stayed on Chiloe Island for 6 days but we travel real slow. One of these days we sat out the rain. Another we spent chilling on a deserted beach, unable to drag ourselves away. Did we mention the weather is changeable?
To explore the island well with a balance between keeping occupied but without rushing, a 3 day trip will cover it.
Our travel itinerary on Chiloe Island
This is the route we took over the 6 days we spent on Chiloe Island.
- Forts, beaches and penguins
- Sat out the weather for gloomy photography
- UNESCO Church route and island hopping on the archipelago
- Exploring Castro
- (More) beaches, (more) penguins, pelicans and fresh seafood
- Monument to the end of the PanAmerican Highway (1 of several in South America) and ferry crossing to Chaitén
We’ve cut all the lounging out of how we actually spent our time on the island and added a couple of bits we didn’t do to put together this perfect 3 day itinerary for Chiloe Island. Check it out!
Popular things to do on Chiloe Island
- Explore Castro, the capital of Chiloe Island. Well known for the colourful, stilted wooden houses called palafitos and gaudy looking yellow and purple San Francisco church.
- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Chiloe Island once had 150 wooden churches (!) While many are long gone, around 60 still stand and 16 fall under UNESCO protection.
- Nature spotting at the only place in the world where Humboldt and Magellanic Penguins hang out together. For many visitors to Chiloe between November and March, the pinguinera (penguin colony) near Ancud is a must see.
- Check out the last stronghold of the Spanish in all of South America at Castillo San Miguel de Ahui. And sleep on your own private beach while you’re there.
Spanish is spoken all across Chiloe Island. To our ears the Chilean Spanish is unlike the Spanish we even vaguely understand. We may still be trying to improve our Spanish after our language classes in Sucre but even so. Slow down guys!
If you’re a beginner too, ask the person you’re speaking with to slow down. You’ll have a fighting chance of communicating with them then.
Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary
Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary is your handy passport to culturally enriching travels with the most relevant and useful Latin American Spanish phrases and vocabulary for all your travel needs.
Mingle with locals at a colourful Latin American mercado, spend a night out dancing to live music, or enjoy a meal in an out-of-the-way restaurant; all with your trusted travel companion.
With language tools in your back pocket, you can truly get to the heart of wherever you go, so begin your journey now!Buy now
Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary
The Perfect Choice:Lonely Planet Latin American Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary, a pocket-sized comprehensive language guide, provides on-the-go language assistance.
Great for language students and travellers looking to interact with locals and immerse themselves in local culture.Buy now
In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin
An exhilarating look at a place that still retains the exotic mystery of a far-off, unseen land, Bruce Chatwin’s exquisite account of his journey through Patagonia teems with evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes.
The author travels all over Chilean and Argentine Patagonia, chatting with ranchers, gauchos and farmers, uncovering the eery legends of the misty islands of Chiloe.Buy here
Unlike along Chile’s Carretera Austral, Chiloe Island has plenty of ATMs. You can find most of them in Castro but most of the other towns including Ancud has at least 1 ATM.
Remember the cost of withdrawing cash is high in Chile. Wherever possible, pay with a credit card or debit card (con tarjecta) rather than with cash (effectivo).
Most restaurants, shops and hotels accept card payments in town. You’ll need cash in more rural areas if you want to buy anything though.
Planning your trip to Chiloe?
Here’s our recommended list of articles for you to get started.
Do you want to show your support or say thanks for our free guides? Give us a like on Facebook or sign up for our free newsletter!
Like it? Pin it!
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and make a purchase, we will receive an affiliate commission. But don’t worry, it doesn’t cost you any extra.