A century-old building, the former Convent of the Immaculate Conception of Ancud (Spanish acronym ICA) has a special role in the history of Ancud. For many decades it housed a congregation of nuns, a school and the Chapel that served as a Cathedral for 16 years, after the 1960 earthquake.
Today the Chapel is disaffected from the ecclesial point of view and, together with the former convent, is part of the operations center of the Friends of Chiloé Churches Foundation.
Today, the ICA houses the offices of the Friends of Chiloé Churches Foundation, carpentry workshops for the restoration of the temples and a large visitor center, located inside the former chapel and which maintains a rich collection of pieces obtained during the church intervention process, imagery, models and all the necessary information so that visitors can actually learn about the meaning of the wooden churches for the Chiloé population.
This is an excellent starting point to embark on the road of discovery of the most authentic Chiloé culture.
We recommend to start getting to know the visitor center located in Ancud, where the tourist circuit of the churches begins. Here, a visitor will find pieces removed from past restorations, scale models of the churches he or she will visit, detailed schedules and other useful information. Distance from Ancud to:
Colo: 74.5 km
Tenaún: 82 km
San Juan: 89.5 km
Dalcahue: 70 km
Achao: 90 km (paso en ferry)
Quinchao: 101 km (paso en ferry)
Caguach: Naveg desde Achao 1:40 hrs
Rilán: 101 km
Chelín: Naveg. Desde Castro 2 hrs.
Castro: 83 km
Nercón: 87 km
Vilupulli: 102 km
Chonchi: 111 km
Ichuac: 116 km
Aldachildo: 136 km
Detif: 147 km
We recommend to go prepared for both for hot and cold weather. Summer days can be very hot with abundant rain.
The local climate is maritime temperate with lots of rain. The average annual temperature is approximately 10.7 ° C. The best weather is between October and April. Summer temperatures are pleasant, with occasional rain.
What to visit?
Mythology is strongly present on the island and in its inhabitants’ customs with stories that reflect the importance of the sea for the Chiloé population. The origins of this mythology and superstitions go back to European immigrants who came to the island. The local mythology is full of warlocks, ghost ships (the caleuche), sea monsters, the goddess of fertility of the marine fauna (the pincoya) and it even has a dwarf who is responsible for the unwanted pregnancies of young maidens (the trauco).
One of the island’s hallmarks is its abundant variety of dishes whose main ingredients are sea products and potatoes of which there are more than 400 native varieties grown on the island. One of the typical dishes is the curanto en hoyo, a tradition that dates back to the time of the Indians that involves cooking seafood, meats and sausages in a hole in the ground, on hot stones and covered with giant nalca or pangue leaves. The dish is accompanied by milcao and chapaleles, Chiloé potato-based dumplings.
It is the northernmost city in Chiloé. Because of its strategic position, Ancud was established as a Spanish port and fort. The San Antonio Fort, built in 1770, with bronze cannons, protected the entrance to the port. It was here as well that the Spanish flag was raised for the last time in Chile. 3 km from the centre of Ancud the visitor will find the Mirador Cerro Huaihue (Huaihue Hill viewing point) with an extensive view of the city and the Chacao canal.
It is located some 25 km to the southwest of Ancud. Here, the visitor will find the only penguin colony in Chile which has two bird species: the Humboldt and the Magellan Penguin. Also on these shores and to the south, in the Corcovado Gulf, the visitor can find the largest known concentration of blue whales in the southern hemisphere, with over 100 identified individuals. There are navigable tours from September to April.
Chiloé National Park.
This park is located some 38 km from Ancud. It has several hiking paths and solitary beach. The abundant rainfall (more than 3,000 mm per year) is responsible for the existence of almost impenetrable evergreen forests with dominant species such as the myrtle, the tepa, the larch and the Guaitecas cypress. The representatives of the local fauna include more than one hundred species of birds and mammals such as foxes and the pudu, the smallest deer in the world.
The town is located in the center of the island of Chiloé, 172 km from Puerto Montt. Founded on the 12th of February, 1567 by Captain Martín Ruíz de Gamboa, Castro is third oldest city in Chile, after Santiago and La Serena. The largest tourist infrastructure of the island can be found in Castro, with lots of cabins, hotels and restaurants, as well as the main connections to the main Chiloé attractions. One of the city’s highpoints is the San Francisco de Castro church, world cultural heritage, a true architectural jewel built in 1910 by Chiloé carpenters. It was made of native wood, with 42-metre high towers. Another must-see is the stilt houses, buildings on the waterfront made of wooden tiles on stilts which appear to be floating on water whenever the tide comes in. In the Gamboa District several such stilt houses have been renovated, turning them into small hostels and hotels with an exquisite design.
Dalcahue is located on the internal coastline of the island that reaches the Gulf of Ancud some 152 km of Puerto Montt, 74 km from Ancud and 25 km from Castro. In the Huilliche language it means a place for boats, the original vessels built by the ethnic group known as the Chonos, the first inhabitants of this archipelago. One of its main attractions is the Church of Nuestra Señora de Los Dolores, which dates back to 1849 and is one of the 16 churches declared world heritage by Unesco. Dalcahue is also the point of departure to cross to the island of Quinchao, where Curaco of Velez is located, a picturesque village that dates back to 1660 when the Jesuits built the first houses, and the village of Achaom founded in 1743 as a Jesuit residence and the missionaries’ center for the islands. The Church of Santa María de Loreto de Achao is located there and it is the oldest on the archipelago.
Chonchi is located some 187 km from Puerto Montt, 99 km from Ancud and 20 km from Castro. It was officially founded in 1767 as Villa San Carlos de Chonchi. One of the town’s special features is a diverse range of local products including the licor de oro, cherry spirits and sweet breads known as ""roscas chonchinas"". The Church of Nuestra Señora del Rosario of Chonchi faces the square and it is a national monument and world heritage. The Chonchi Latin American Festival is held here every February.
It is located 92 km south of Castro and is the southernmost town on the island of Chiloé. It is also the place where the Pan-American Highway, which begins in Alaska and crosses the entire American continent, ends. Quellón is also the starting point to visit the private Tantauco Park and the embarkation point of the ferries that sail to Chaiten and Puerto Chacabuco. Visitors and locals can also board a barge that sails the stormy Gulf of Corcovado to Melinka, the main town of the Guaitecas archipelago in Patagonia.
This conservation project owned and run by the Futuro Foundation is located on the southwestern tip of the island of Chiloé and is characterized by excellent infrastructure with shelters and trails, as well as the presence of typical fauna such as the chucao and the river otters (the hullin). The trails have shelters located every 6 hours of trekking, they are well-built incorporating insulation and waterproofing technologies with a capacity for 8 to 11 people. The shelters are built according to the traditional values of local construction using recycling dead cypress wood. Their accesses are by land (Yaldad Lake and Chaiguata Lake) and by sea (Inio cove).
Looking after the churches
Apparently static buildings, the heritage churches of Chiloé are a reflection of a living and dynamic religious community that inhabits them actively, maintains them, cares for them, and makes use of them according to their original purpose: Catholic syncretic worship and religious festivity at the end of the world. Therefore, tourists visiting them must not simply see them as empty buildings, but as an active cultural complex; and as such, they should treat them with the respect that they deserves.