The Chiloe
Back to tribes

The Chiloe

Islander fishermen

Islander fishermen

Venture across the Chiloe Archipielago in the Chilean Pacific coast to meet the distant discentents of the Chono people. The Archipelago gives them their current name. Chiloé comes from the Mapuche word chillwe, meaning "seagull place".

The first human settlers on Chiloé Island came to the island around 12,000 BC, and they were followed by the nomadic ethnic group called Chono. Their population went extinct in the late 1800s and a branch of the Mapuche people, called the Huilliche, settled on the island. Today, there are around 150,000 people living on the islands, especially in the capital city Castro. Fishing remains a popular industry on the island today, but tourism is also starting to become an important source of income for local people.


  • Region is South America

  • Climate here is Mild

  • The challenge here is Casual

  • This trip has been rated 5 by other travelers



Fishing is the most popular industry on the island and the Chiloes also grow a wide variety of vegetables. They cook in a stone oven on the ground, heated by rocks. Most Chilean potatoes are of the variety found only here.


The homes on the main island are very distinctive. They are painted in bright colors and built on stilts that stand out above the water. In addition, the main islands have many historic wooden-shingle churches built from local 17th-century wood, and 16 are listed by UNESCO as World Heritage sites.


Social Structure

The Chiloe social unit is the extended family; this include a man and his brothers, their wives, sons, and unmarried daughters. The family lives in a cluster of houses within a compound. This social structure is slowly changing, since many Chiloe are looking for job's opportunities in the cities.


They converted to Christianity after the arrival of the Spaniards and believe in the Christian after world. Some traditional beliefs have been kept till this day; they have a rich folklore with many mythological animals and spirits. Some are protestant.


The food for the Chiloe is extremely important. Fresh seafood and vegetables and included in all meals. Specialties like the “curanto”, are usually cooked wrapped in nalca leaves and then in a stone oven deep in the ground, heated by rocks. This dish includes traditional stew of fish, mussels, clams, beef and potatoes, all served with steamed potato cakes with bacon bits, dumplings of mashed potato and flour.

Some potatoes are considered like “heirlooms” and have been passed down from generation to generation. These are sell the traditional way in the local markets.

Local alcoholic beverage is the apple chicha (cider), but there are also other variety of typical alcoholic beverages like Murtado and Licor de Oro liqueurs.


Chilote language is considered a dialect of Spanish language spoken in the Archipelago. It differs in accent, pronunciation, grammar and vocabulary, especially influenced by the Huilliche.


Ceramic, basketry, textiles, goldsmithing, dancing and music are the most important art forms.


A part from Christian celebrations and feasts for the patron saint of each community, the communities hold some other important local and collective ceremonies. The principal festival for the Mapuche living on the islands is the Nquillatún (June 24th), an expression which stands for “New Year” or “sunrise of the new sun”, which lasts for three days. During this time, the community sing and pray the gods and goddesses for healthy harvests.

All major life events, such as birth, puberty, marriage, and death, are celebrated through special ceremonies.
Further knowledge

Further knowledge

The unique environment of the Chiloé Archipelago is incredible for excursions and ready to spot some incredible animals both on land and in the ocean; Along the shores, you can see penguins and sea lions.

Please be conscious of the amount of waste you are producing since it could contribute to the local marine and land plastic pollution because of the lack of waste management!

Please, always ask permission to the members of the tribe before snapping a picture!

Photo credit: Palafitos in Castro

Photo credit: Fish market

Photo Credit: Sea Lions Chiloe Island

Photo credit: Bracelets for good luck