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Mystical, misty, lushly green, Chiloé holds an iconic place in the Chilean national psyche. You can see rolling hills, rocky coastlines, and dusty fishing villages elsewhere, but Chile’s largest island is an undeniably pretty place—especially if you’re used to Chile’s homogenous and homogenizing cities, or have a special interest in delving into the island’s unique culture.

No visit to Chiloé is complete without stepping into at least several of the island’s centuries-old, wooden, but well preserved churches, many of which are certified as World Heritage Sites by UNESCO. Aside from being beautiful in architectural terms, the churches are culturally significant as the crossroads between Catholicism, imposed by Spanish colonialism, and the rich mythical beliefs that still persist among island residents.

Those in the market for the ultimate in tranquility can hardly go wrong with a stay in Chonchi or one of Chiloé’s other small towns. The island’s national park is also a fine place for camping or hiking. Even if your interest in nature is limited, you’ll surely get a kick out of an excursion to the Pinguinera Puñihuil penguin reserves near Ancud.

By Kevin Funk
Originally from the U.S., and now living in wondrously unique Valparaíso, Chile, I've traveled extensively in Latin...
21 Aug 2009

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