America,  Chile,  TDM,  Travel Journal

Puerto Montt & Castro on the island of Chiloé (Chile): a Christmas like no other

From Bariloche, we take a 5-6h bus to Puerto Montt (500$AR/person), one of the most important transportation hubs in Chile. So important that there is a screen (like at the airport) with the bus departures and their location

Day 1: Puerto Montt

After 3 weeks of deserted streets in Patagonia, it is a bit of a shock to see so many people in the streets, hence a false impression of insecurity in Puerto Montt

We could have taken a bus to go directly to Castro, but we really have a lot of time to waste so why not spend a night here, just to learn about the city and the options we have for the new year

It was finally a great idea because the owner of our guesthouse boosted my confidence to the max: we can converse together, in Spanish. yippee ! I’ve already talked about it here

Apart from that, the city has no interest
But who paid to put it on the seashore?

Stroll with sea view (not very pretty, smell a bit unpleasant)

We try to exchange our Argentine pesos here (I withdrew way too much, for fear of running out of cash in Argentina) but nobody likes Argentine pesos here. To exchange 2160$AR (or 133€), with their rotten exchange rate (1$AR = 35$CH), I could have lost 20€!! No thanks! I already paid 6.5% to withdraw those 2000 poor pesos. But that means that I have to keep my pesos until April:'( Well, we’ll see if we can exchange them for a better rate in Bolivia or Peru

I tried to withdraw money, but after several attempts, I was only able to withdraw 200,000 pesos, no more. Because of these failed attempts, my bank believes there is fraudulent activity on my card. I will talk about this later

Day 2: Castro – Chiloé Islands

We take a bus from Puerto Montt with the company Queilén that covers all travel on the island of Chiloé. The trip is more or less pleasant with a fast ferry crossing (included in the price). And above all, it is much cheaper than in Argentina (only 6500$CH or 9€). In Argentina, a trip like that would have cost at least 30€!

It’s obvious that it’s Christmas, a group of 10 young people taking the same bus as us traveling with a lot of suitcases, gifts, machines… It took them at least 30 minutes to put everything in the hold. The driver must be used to it because he doesn’t complain at all and manages to bring in this mountain of suitcases

At the red lights, we see, as usual, jugglers

The Castro terminal is very busy. At the exit, several collectivos cabs are waiting outside (it’s a shared cab with a predefined route see the picture below) but none of them go to our hotel (which is a little further, in Nercon)

Too bad, I stop a normal cab. And then I realize that this cab doesn’t have a number (i.e. it’s not an official cab). Do we take it or not?

We’ll take it anyway but only after asking for the price. 4000$CH, he tells me. OK, the hotel announced us a price of 3500$CH, let’s not negotiate for 70 cents

We arrive at our hotel Cabanas Palafitos Los Pescadores. The first impression is mitigated: it is the low tide and it is uglier than on the photos. However, the owner is super nice, makes efforts to converse with me in Spanish and even drops us off at the supermarket downtown

Thanks to the indications of the owner, we manage to take the bus n°2 to return to the hotel, with our arms full of food

The view from our room improves with time. It is said that we can, even if it is very rare, see dolphins in the bay. Can you see the houses opposite on stilts? It’s typical on the island of Chiloé that! Our apartment is also on stilts!

Tadam! The small terrace with a barbecue

This is our apartment, very spacious with a wood stove (it’s not just for fun, it’s the only heating we have) and a television (for better learning Spanish). This is where we are going to spend Christmas!

There are always birds or ducks in front of the terrace

The hotel provides us with a kind of powder to light the wood stove more easily. The problem with this kind of stove is that it consumes very quickly. At night, the fire goes out and we are a little cold the next morning

Days 3 -> 6 :

We realize that we really eat a lot and that the little food bought the day before will not be enough for 5 days. We return again to the city center by observing the locals how the local buses work

The bus stations look like small huts, but you can stop the bus anywhere by hailing. The ticket costs only 350$CH per person. To stop, one presses the stop button and goes directly to the exit door. 5 meters later, the bus will stop (even if it isn’t an official stop). It’s like a cab in fact, but cheaper and more spacious. So cool!

To return to the hotel, we always wait for the bus at this station, in front of the UNIMARC supermarket

We take the opportunity to visit the city. The island of Chiloé is very famous for its churches classified by Unesco. Castro has one: unfortunately, it is closed for works(templo cerrado para trabajos)

Miniatures of other classified churches can be found at the tourist office

At the big square in the city center

Near the water, we see houses on stilts. It is low tide, so a little less pretty

We eat at this little restaurant on stilts too

From our table, we saw a small house on top of the hill that reminds me too much of Hobbiton in New Zealand. Yes, Bilbo’s house! (but with a lot of power lines in addition)

I advise you the lemonade with mint and ginger

Next to us, a French family is passing through here. The 12 year old girl speaks Spanish very well, ohlala if only I had her level! Anyway, it must be so cool to make your children practice a foreign language thanks to the trip. To motivate them even more, any order of ice cream must be made by the person wishing to eat it ahahah the diabolical plan!

I remember my father took me to Madrid once during his business trip. For a week, I served him as an interpreter in restaurants. However, I never practiced Spanish again and I forgot everything

The city isn’t super clean, but it is very colorful and has charm

We take the bus to the hotel stopping at the wooden church of Nercon (also classified by Unesco). Bad luck, a funeral will take place just after, we have just a few minutes to look inside the church and its columns painted to imitate marble

JB starts a barbecue

…more or less burned on the other hand. It will be better next time

I receive a message from my bank saying that fraud has been detected on my card. Based on the transactions they send me, the thief is me. I tried to withdraw money several times without success and it turned into a fraud alert. The good news is that the fraud detection system seems to be working. The bad news is that I’m going to have to renew my card. In the meantime, my current card is still working. The new card should arrive within 10 days, when I will be staying in a hotel in Santiago for several days

Well, there is a real good news: after looking unsuccessfully for a cheap hotel in Valparaiso/Vina del Mar for the New Year, suddenly the price drops and we find a great hostel for 50€/night in Vina del Mar. To us the best fireworks of Chile!

A surprise guest

While there are only embers left over from the barbecue, a dog appears out of nowhere to beg for food, he smelled the smell of the barbecue. Our terrace is closed, he had to contort himself to come here from the terrace next door. I give him some leftover chorizo and promise to buy him some food later. Isn’t he cute?

For a few days, we go to see this dog every day (at every barbecue in fact), in the evening, he even knocks at the door to ask for some food. We didn’t think of giving him a little name, but we love him and he is very well brought up (he doesn’t try to enter the hut)

Be careful, if you want to feed the dogs, do not give them chocolate, bread or avocado. The safest is meat, and if you can, dog food

Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

On Christmas Eve, we have a little barbecue, I think it’s the first time in our lives that we spend Christmas with a short sleeved T-shirt and a barbecue. It rains intermittently, so we don’t feel like going to church

On Christmas Day, as I mentioned here, we have an earthquake with an epicenter not far from where we are, and a tsunami warning. More fear than harm, we are laughing about it now

The day after Christmas, our craving for sushi is stronger than ever, we decide to try the sushi at KOI downtown. By paying by credit card, we get a 45% discount! As much to say that we ate a lot… but not so well eaten as that because the salmon was half defrosted. Lonely Planet however told us not to eat salmon in Chile, the real, good Chilean salmon is exported to Brazil, the US and Japan. In Chile, there will only be low quality salmon left :'( Why? Why?

The next day, we take the bus to Puerto Varas, 20mn from Puerto Montt

CONCLUSION: We really enjoyed this little week of “vacation” during our world tour. The hut was charming, perfect for Christmas. JB was able to do some experiments (he grew some lentil shoots – something he plans to do when we settle down somewhere). And I was able to enjoy the company of a dog, even though he was more interested in my plate than in me

Part 2: Practical Tips


  • If for some reason you want to spend some time on the side of Puerto Montt, prefer the small town Puerto Varas, only 20 minutes away by car.
  • The other big city of the island of Chiloé is Ancud but we don’t see any houses on stilts, it is better to go to Castro (like us).
  • Don’t stay in downtown Castro where there’s nothing to see, instead choose hotels with a view of the bay, or on stilts. Our hotel, Cabanas Palafitos Los Pescadores, is perfect for Christmas, with its small fireplace, super smiling maids, and a terrace with a view.
  • As you can see, we have not visited all the churches classified by Unesco. The island of Chiloé is full of little wonders, I advise you to read this article from A Backpack if you want to dig more.


  • Conversion rate in December 2016: 1€ = 16$AR and 1€ = 704$CH. I put the conversion rates here because due to inflation, the amounts may change in a few months, but the equivalent in €/USD will remain the same.
  • Bus

    • Bariloche -> Puerto Montt : 500$AR/person and 25$AR tax per person
    • Puerto Montt -> Castro: 6500$CH/person with the company Queilén Bus

  • Hotel

    • Puerto Montt: Hospedaje Javiera, 28000$CH/room with breakfast, I highly recommend, we had the largest room, with room for 4 people.
    • Cabanas Palafitos Los Pescadores : 256USD for 5 nights without tax (or 34 500$CH/night), for a 3 persons hut. By paying in cash (pesos or dollars), the 19% VAT can be paid.

  • Food

    • Courses: 64000$CH, or 90€ for 6 days, 2 persons
    • Restaurants: between 30 000$CH and 33 000$CH in seafood restaurants, for 2 people, tip and drinks included. In normal restaurants (no seafood), you can eat for 6000$CH/person

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