Chiloé is a misty and mystical group of islands, which developed independently from the rest of Chile. As a result it has its own culture and history, and an altogether different feel to the mainland. Isla Grande de Chiloé is the main island in the Chiloé archipelago and the second largest island in South America, after Tierra del Feugo. Around it are 40 or so other islands, even more remote and traditional.
Chiloé is known for its natural beauty and rich folklore. Legends of witches, ghost ships and mermaids abound, and belief in spirits remains strong among Chilotes to this day. The weather in this part of Chile is almost as notorious as the island myths. Wind, rain and powerful Pacific tides batter the islands for much of the year, although spring and autumn in Chiloé can often be simply stunning - with wild flowers carpeting the rolling landscape and sunshine brightening up the dramatic coastline of the Parque Nacional Chiloé, on the wild west coast.
Traditional Chiloé houses mounted on stilts and more than 150 wooden churches - some dating back to the 1700s - are examples of the distinctive island architecture. Chilote food also has its own style. Curanto, a seafood, meat and potato stew, is the local specialty and well worth trying. Chiloé's wildlife provides another reason to visit. Puñihuíl is the only place in the world where Humbolt and Magellanic penguins nest together. Sea lions, sea otters and countless marine birds can also be seen here, and local fishermen lead guided tours.