One of Chile’s most spectacular regions, Humboldt Director Kirsty spent some time exploring the magical Chiloe Island with Tierra Chiloe, a luxury hotel offering unique activities in the area. Here are her thoughts on her stay:
Chiloe Island is a beautiful and mystical island separated from mainland Chile by a small stretch of water. The verdant landscape with rolling hills has a distinctly alpine feel, complete with fields of cows and sheep, and quaint wooden houses on distinctive stilts. People here live a simple, traditional life and they depend on farming, fishing and the island’s blossoming tourism to make a living.
The best way to experience this magical place is in a luxury hotel which offers a wide variety of excursions, allowing guests to explore and relax in these singularly beautiful surroundings. Tierra Chiloe is such a hotel. An hour and a half’s flight from Santiago takes you to Puerto Montt in the country’s northern Patagonian lake district. A representative from the hotel will meet guests here, complete with snacks for the journey and an introduction to the Chiloe experience. The journey from the airport takes around three hours including a twenty-minute ferry ride across to the island.
Tierra Chiloe is one of three stunning hotels in the Tierra group, the others being in Torres del Paine and the northern Atacama Desert. Each is designed with a focus on the sleek, modern architecture – designed with great consideration for its harmony with the surrounding landscape. The Chiloe hotel is no exception. Situated on the stunning Rillan Peninsula, overlooking a beautiful wetland, you would be hard pushed to find a more beautiful setting. The hotel has recently doubled in size, going from 12 rooms to 24. The interior is all wood, in-keeping with the traditional Patagonian feel. Beautiful hardwood panelling on the floors and walls, interspersed with occasional polished concrete and decorated with local textiles create a warm, cosy and welcoming environment. The views here are a big part of the hotel and each room has large floor-to-ceiling windows, all facing out to the scenery. If the light is right, the sunrises and sunsets are stunning with views over the water. On a clear day, guests can even see the volcanoes of the lake district in the distance.
The common spaces are all warm and welcoming. Large wood burners create a homely atmosphere and deep, velvet sofas with luxurious cushions and sheepskins are the perfect place to curl up with one of the many books from the well-stocked library. Each Tierra hotel has a huge wall map of the region which guides use each morning to talk through your excursion for the day.
The restaurant is a beautiful space with huge picture windows and each table orientated to make the most of the view. The food is excellent with three different options offered for starters, main and dessert, changing every day inspired by the fresh local produce. Guests can enjoy dishes such as pork medallions on a four-cheese risotto or an aubergine cannelloni served with a fresh mango sauce. The hotel makes the most of the region’s rich produce which includes fantastic seafood and a wide variety of potatoes. Wines from Lapostolle and Matetic are served with meals: two of Chile’s best wineries.
A culinary highlight of a stay at Tierra Chiloe is the curanto, a traditional Chilote way of cooking in a hole in the ground. A hole is dug and then myrtle branches are lit to start the fire. The first layer is knee deep in mussels, oysters and clams, freshly caught that day. Layers of leaves are put down before pork and chorizo are added and finally layers of potato cakes, wrapped in foil. More leaves and turf are added before it is left for a few hours to cook. Guests can enjoy a glass of wine and an aperitif of freshly cooked seafood as they watch the curanto being unpacked. A cup of the broth from the meat cooking is a nourishing way to keep warm during the cool evenings. Returning inside to dinner, it only makes sense to choose the curanto from the menu, a steaming bowl of seafood and meat in a delicious broth accompanied by hearty potato cakes.
The excursions at Tierra Chiloe are designed to give guests a wonderful introduction to the island and a real feel for the people and culture. They have got it spot on. Chiloe is not just about the views and the landscape, the people make this island what it is with their simple way of life, warm welcome and strong superstitions. Their belief in local myths is fascinating and somehow runs comfortably alongside the Jesuit religion which was brought here by Jesuits from Europe. Their churches are a beautiful part of the island, built entirely from wood and painted in beautiful colours, the ceiling of each resembles an upturned boat inside as that is all the locals knew how to make. Many such churches are protected by UNESCO.
Boats are another big part of life on the island and Tierra Chiloe has its own boat, the Williche, built in a local shipyard. The boat is really an extension of the hotel, cosy and welcoming with excellent service on board. I experienced it on a day trip to the local island of Mechuque. Guests are greeted on board with snacks and an open bar. An hour’s worth of sailing takes you to Mechuque and you have the chance to spot dolphins, penguins, sea lions and many birds en-route. There follows a choice of activities from a gentle hike around the island, a zodiac ride, complete with sparkling wine (or juice!), or some kayaking. An hour later, the guests meet on the island to walk through the tranquil town of Mechuque. The hotel has a house here which has been kept as a museum, full of traditional artefacts – just as it was left. This small tour gives you a real feel for the slow and simple way of life on the island. Back on the boat, we set sail for the journey back to the hotel and enjoy a hearty lunch prepared by the onboard chef. When they say it is an extension of the hotel, they are not wrong! The food on board was equally exquisite.
Another wonderful excursion is to Quinchao Island. The day starts at the nearby town of Dalcahue and a visit to the artisanal market. Here there is an array of rugs, blankets, knitted hats and socks and delightful knitted toys. It is hard to pull yourself away! The next-door food market also beckons with enticing flavours including various empanadas and the famous dish of chupe, king crab in a warm cheese sauce.
A 5-minute ferry ride next takes us over to Quinchao and the delightful Sandra’s house. Sandra is one fantastic lady, a member of the indigenous Huilliche people, she has an organic farm and welcomes visitors here. Guests can enjoy a relaxing time spent wandering the garden and grounds as Sandra shows you her beautiful flowers, neatly planted rows of potatoes and the stunning views over her land. Lunch is brought from the hotel and served in her dining room where Sandra joins us for lunch and enjoys chatting with guests and the guide. A quick purchase of some of her homemade jams, made with stevia and all from her own organic fruit finishes off the day as we head back to the hotel.
Another impressive lady encountered on Tierra’s tours is Elena, the owner and manager of Bosquepiedra, a native rainforest on the island which makes for a fascinating excursion. Elena takes guests on a 2-2 and half hour walk through the rainforest, nimble as a mountain goat as she explains about the trees, the vines, the ferns, moss and lichen, many of which contain miniature forests of their own. Lunch is served back at the start of the trail, another feast provided by the hotel to finish off a fascinating day.
These excursions are a big part of what makes this hotel so special. Tierra clearly works hard to support and incorporate the local community, an essential element in an area such as this. Little touches such as the gifts of knitted slippers for each guest and the descriptions of local myths, written by the wife of Andres, the manager and illustrated by his son all add to the warmth of the hotel. Tierra Chiloe is a luxury hotel with a profound sense of personality, what more could you ask for?
Would you like to visit Chiloe island? Click here for more information on Chile and here for more information on the island. For more information on Tierra Chiloe, click here. Contact us today to speak to a travel specialist and design your bespoke luxury itinerary.