Introduction

When the early-morning fog shrouds misty-eyed and misunderstood Chiloé, it's immediately apparent something different this way comes. Isla Grande de Chiloé is South America's fifth-largest island and is home to a fiercely independent, seafaring people.

Immediately apparent are changes in architecture and cuisine: tejuelas, the famous Chilote (of Chiloé) wood shingles; palafitos (houses mounted on stilts along the water's edge); the iconic wooden churches (16 of which are Unesco World Heritage sites); and the renowned meat, potato and seafood stew, curanto. A closer look reveals a rich spiritual culture that is based on a distinctive mythology of witchcraft, ghost ships and forest gnomes.

All of the above is weaved among landscapes that are wet, windswept and lush, with undulating hills, wild and remote national parks, and dense forests, giving Chiloé a distinct flavor unique in South America.