Ancud was once a rather wealthy place with gracious buildings, palafitos and a railway line. But the earthquake of 1960 decimated the town. Today, version 2.0, though rather quaint, is a sprawling city only peppered with occasional native architecture leading down to the spectacular waterfront, which glistens throughout the better part of each summer day.
The elongated island of Quinchao, easily accessed via a short ferry crossing from Dalcahue, is a hilly patchwork of pasturelands punctuated by small villages. A good road runs the length of the island and carries you through the island's most popular destinations, Curaco de Vélez and Achao.
In Huilliche, Dalcahue means 'Dalca's Place' and it is named after the boats (dalcas) constructed by Chiloé's first inhabitants. It's a feisty town facing the inner sea of the island and is famous for its vibrant Sunday crafts fair. It's also the jumping-off point for Isla Quinchao, one of archipelagic Chile's more accessible and interesting islands, and Isla Mechugue.
Monumento Natural Islotes de Puñihuil
Three islands off the coast of Puñihuil, on the Pacific Ocean, are breeding grounds for Magellanic and the near-extinct Humboldt penguins, and a haven for blue whales. The entire area is protected as a natural monument and a no-fishing zone is enforced in the area.
Tenaún & San Juan
Tiny Tenaún is rural – 37km northeast along a gravel road from Dalcahue – but there are two very compelling reasons to visit. The magnificent Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Patrocinio (1837), for which the town is named (Tenaún means 'three mounts'), is one of Chiloé's Unesco stunners, meticulously restored down to the last shingle.
On a clear summer day, the snowcapped mountains of southern Chile loom in the distance over misty Quemchi, topping off an already impressive view from the sea wall of this sleepy little town. Quemchi's waterfront is an ideal place to lose yourself for a day, strolling along the bay and passing the hours in one of Chiloé's best restaurants – El Chejo.
The further you venture into Chiloé's smaller islands, the more it feels as if you've traveled back in time. Isla Mechuque is only 45 minutes by boat from Tenaún, but feels like it's caught in a bygone era. A part of the Islas Chauques – considered Chiloé's most beautiful island chain – Mechuque is small but stunning.