Isla Chiloe – A step back in time

March 2023- Chile

The ferry crossed a large inlet of the South Pacific Ocean and deposited us in the city of Quellon.  This is a bustling port city with a seedy energy about it and a lot of traffic.  Most of the homes looked worn down and weathered by the sea, the storms and lack of maintenance.

But Chiloe Islands are not known for much besides warm, hand knit sweaters and beautiful churches.  There is a trail of churches on the islands that are oft publicized.  They draw full tour buses from the mainland and nostalgic memories of times long past.  We visited a few of the churches, and a museum foundation that specializes in preserving their history.

We also had the opportunity to meet an epic musician and experience his very special museum.  This little hole-in-the-wall included an extensive and ancient collection of accordions.  The oldest one in the room was a German diatonic accordion from 1870.

Then, as if by magic, the accordion legend from the painting, came to life!  He picked up an instrument and began playing a wonderful tune.  We felt so fortunate to be in the museum at that special moment to honor this gentleman.


In keeping with the old-time them, we peered in a few dusty shop windows and looked back at businesses that were shuttered many years ago.  Folks have moved off these islands in recent years (especially since COVID), seeking more traditional jobs in the big cities of Chile.  Leaving behind decaying villages and memories of bygone eras.  This little glimpse through a broken window shows an old style of fabric store, with a long, wooden service counter and a few remaining yarns on the shelf.  The bottle of sanitizer reminds us that COVID delivered the final blow to these struggling businesses.

Continuing our exploration of the islands took us to a rather significant landmark.  Perhaps you recall that when we left for this big trip, we intended to drive the Panamerican Highway?

Well, we did that and much, much more as we wandered off the highway and into towns, villages, beaches, mountains, hot springs, and such.  But here we encountered the end…….

The end of the Panamerican Highway is on the southern most tip of Chiloe Island!  So, I guess we made it to the end!

This milestone was celebrated with a delicious, traditional Chilean island lunch in a very old, very authentic restaurant.  The server was warm and friendly.  The couple in the corner sat near the wood stove, sipping their wine in silence.  We enjoyed delicious fish dinners of salmon and merluza (hake) with potatoes, vegetables and bread. 

Our island campsites were mostly beaches.  The water is calm, the birds are plenty and the small villages are peaceful.  We also found delicious blackberries in season everywhere we went.  Perfect for our morning yogurt and granola.

Our last campsite was at the boat dock to leave from the main island, to go to one of the smaller, outlying islands.  We had been invited to stay with some new friends on a working sheep farm on the small island of Anihue.  Be sure to sign up to receive the next post, as we tell the story of spending time on a Chilean sheep farm on an isolated island in the South Pacific Ocean.

One thought on “Isla Chiloe – A step back in time

  1. Nice post, of a place another friend had recently recommended, where he and his oldest daughter traveled through together some years back on a backpacking and WOOF adventure. It’s good to see your fine record of that tucked-away corner of Chile.

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