Friday, April 17, 2009

A Few Days in Isla Chiloé, Chile

From our nice stay in Ensenada, we took a morning bus through Puerto Varas to Puerto Montt, and then another bus and a ferry to the island of Chiloé. We picked a rainy, foggy day for the trip, so couldn't see much of anything on the ferry.

We went straight to the main city of Castro, a quaint little fishing-turned-tourist town. Castro and Chiloé somewhat reminded us of the small towns in Penobscot Bay, Maine. There are many smaller islands in the Chiloé archipelago, and small ferries abound.

Castro has a beautiful square, complete with an old church built completely of wood. We spent the first day and half, with warm sunny weather, strolling around Castro's square area and the waterfront.

Church Inside--All Made of Wood!

We stayed in a small hostel a block from the bus station called La Cordillera. We chose an upstairs room with a waterfront view, though we had to give up the option of a TV and a 'matrimonial' bed to get the view. But it was worth it.

We investigated taking guided tours to see other parts of the island. But they wanted 18,000 pesos per person (about $32). After asking at the tourist information kiosk in the square, we found that we could do a 'self-tour' for only a few dollars.

So the next day, we got going early, and caught the 9am bus that goes through the small town of Chonchi and out to the Parque Nacional de Chiloé. It was a nice 90-minute ride through the countryside (costing only $6 each round trip).

For another $2 each, we got into the park. The park features a couple of short walks--one on a boardwalk trail through a unique area of forest (for Chile) that reminded me of a Central Florida pine/palmetto hammock. The second walk was out to the dunes on the Pacific Ocean. It was kind of drizzling the whole time we were there, but we still enjoyed the walk.

For lunch, we returned to Chonchi, and had a nice seafood lunch and a walk on the (almost deserted) waterfront. The Lonely Planet raved about Chonchi, but we thought it was kind of dull. But both the square and the church was under renovation, and there were no tourists in town.

The Deserted Chonchi Waterfront

I think that during high tourist season, when everywhere else is packed with tourists, Chonchi might be a nice respite from the crowds (especially when their extensive renovations are complete).

On our third day in Chiloé, we took the bus in the other direction, to the town of Dalcahue, and on to the smaller island of Quinchao. Again, the bus fare included the ferry trip.

We enjoyed the bus ride down the backbone to the principal town of Achao, and an hour walking around. We tried to get a map of the town, but the tourist office was closed. We did get in to see the church, nicely renovated.

We had lunch at the new waterfront complex in Dalcahue, where they have built a fish market, an artesan market, and restaurant complex over the water. The 'restaurants' are very small booths with a few seats, selling delicious seafood plates.. anything from steamed mussels to crab and several kinds of fish.

The one thing we DIDN'T get to do while in Chiloé is tour a Salmon Farm. But Salmon farming is BIG business in Chile. The whole time we've been in the Lakes District, we've seen large semi trailers transporting fish... Since salmon live in salt water but breed in fresh water, the farming operation has to transport them back and forth between farms on fresh water lakes and farms near salt water.

Salmon Transport

We would really have liked to had a good explanation in English of the farming operation. But never saw a tour offered.

We loved Chiloé, it would be a great place to come back and spend more time.

No comments:

Post a Comment