The Magical Island of Chiloé

Headshot of Maggie Peyton.
Maggie Peyton
March 27, 2023
A cloud-filled blue sky and perfectly centered rainbow shine above boats and outcroppings of land

The island - more accurately archipelago - of Chiloé is known for its unique culture, sustainability-focused economy, wooden churches, delicious foods, and rich mythology. It is located in the south of the country and is generally rainy. Despite that, it isn’t a gloomy place, and I treasure every moment I’ve spent on its shores.

In three days, we saw at least 50 different types of birds, some of which are endemic and can only be found on the island. The waters are a beautiful, brilliant blue. Everything is made with dedication and intention, and you can feel it in each and every one of the things you eat. We had a banana-peach jam, something I had never heard or thought of before our visit. It was incredible - I would’ve bought vats of it. Winter months mean more rain, but even that is not without its beauty. The first full day I was there it rained on and off six times and there was a rainbow as the rain lessened each and every time.

Much of Chiloé is covered by trees and forests and vegetation. One type of tree there grows sideways and build layers of flora that are parallel to the ground. The oldest forests are made up of layers and layers of plants, which makes sticking to trails even more important.

Various outside influences have left the island in different states of growth. Part of the forestation was taken for timber, and those areas are still recovering. The construction of a name-brand big-corporation grocery store is in discussion and at this point may even be underway in the capital city of Castro.

Chiloé’s economy is focused on salmon, mussels, honey, sheep wool, and other sea-and-artisan based goods. It is generally self-sufficient and doesn’t need or necessarily want the resources of the mainland. Farmers try to grow and harvest sustainably, and restaurants source the vast majority of their goods from local businesses and families. 

The mythology of the island is another aspect of it that I love. They have stories about Chiloé’s origin, different events that have taken place, and so much more. We hiked (it was more like a lengthy, slightly inclining walk) to a place called “El Muelle de los Almas,” which means “the Pier of Souls.” Its said to be where the deceased go after they die to wait for death to bring them to the afterlife. The view is amazing - tons of outcroppings of rocks and rolling valleys and crashing waves. There is an island within the island called “la Isla de Almas Navegantes,” which means ‘the island of Traveling Souls.’ You have to walk across a bridge to get to it, and the view is one of birds and nets to catch mussels and healthy brilliant greenery. It is home to a cemetery and a few small rock beaches. I felt very moved by the island and the feeling in the air there. It is truly a special place.

The same can be said of the whole of Chiloé. We spent one of our nights there just staring at the stars for hours. Never have I seen so many of them shining so brilliantly.

If you love nature and want to connect with it, Chiloé is a wonderful place to visit. If you travel for food or you’d rather go hiking, Chiloé has all of that too. I’ve been twice now and both times have not felt like long enough to soak in all of the fresh air and beauty. There is always something new to discover, and I only hope that I have the chance to see it again some day in the future.

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Headshot of Maggie Peyton.

Maggie Peyton

My name is Maggie and I'm from Chicago, Illinois (one of the best cities in the States in my completely unbiased opinion). I'm left-handed, could watch Encanto every day, and I am a huge fan of the singer-songwriter Mitski. I study Public Policy at the University of Illinois in Chicago and am excited to learn more about Santiago. I hope to find a community away from the one I have at home and make Santiago my own.

2022 Fall, 2023 Spring
Home University:
University of Illinois at Chicago
Public Policy
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