Rural tourism in Chiloe Island, one of Chile’s hidden gems
Every Chilean has heard about Chiloe Island. If you ask anyone in Chile, they will tell you Chiloe is a place of magic, where witches and mythological creatures still wander around. And if they are lucky to have visited the island, they will definitely speak about the friendliness of its inhabitants, known as chilotes. When I first went to the island in 1993, I was young and inexperienced, but I could understand that Chiloe had many reasons to be so famous. And oddly enough, it was almost unknown to travellers from other countries. I went back to Chiloe fifteen years later, searching for community-based tourism initiatives to work with. I was amazed by the wonders I found.
So we created incredible tourism programmes in the central part of the island, where travellers can navigate to smaller islands and go off-the-beaten path while learning more about the local culture. Among others, we started working with a network of 60 rural families who offer a great variety of tourism services and activities, including accommodation in traditional farm houses, camping, trekking excursions, artisan fishing, cultural activities and foodie experiences. It is the best way of discovering the real and authentic Chiloe, and the rural families are so welcoming!
A couple of years ago I was surprised again. The southernmost part of the island had always been the most mysterious and unknown, a territory that few outsiders would dare to visit. Yet the Huilliche communities of Quellon, people who have lived there for a time beyond memory, started a tourism project. I was introduced to them by Javier, one of the participants of a school for indigenous tourism we implemented in 2015 and he was both quick and effective to spark my imagination with the stories of navigation, survival and thriving of these Huilliche communities. Javier was working with them and I was happily amazed to hear that they had created several hiking trails to explore the more than six hundred hectares of their nature reserve: untouched forests, with living spirits and all the mist you can imagine.
In fact, the Huilliche communities started the tourism project because they felt the need to share and preserve their ancient knowledge and culture, which are slowly disappearing. The services they provide are far from luxurious, although they are absolutely comfortable, but the experience you can have by hiking, sailing, talking and wandering one of the spiritual borders of the World, is beyond words.
Lucky those who are able to reach this elusive territory. Lucky those who can feel the fresh air and visit the old forests of this forgotten land. Lucky those who can share with the Huilliche the secrets of the land and this mysterious island.
This post was a contribution by Juan, our Chile local expert. To learn more about the activities and adventures available in Chiloe Island, you can visit our Chile Holidays page and send a travel enquiry. Did you like this content? Then you can subscribe to our quarterly newsletter to make sure you never miss blog posts like this one in the future!