Relaxing and Hiking in Cucao, Isla de Chiloé

When most people visit la Isla de Chiloé, they usually head to Ancud and Castro, the largest cities on the island known for their colorful seaside homes on stilts (palafitos) and UNESCO World Heritage Churches. On my last trip there, I decided to discover more of the island and seek a more relaxing and secluded holiday in Cucao.

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Cucao is a small village juxtaposed between the Chiloé National Park and lakes Cucau and Huilinco. Here you are surrounded by the best of a mixture of things Chile has to offer – immersing yourself in nature and the typical southern countryside while learning about the Chilote myths and legends.

Since we went during the fall, it was a too cold to swim in the lakes and beaches, but I can imagine it to be a fun place to go in the summer. We stuck to doing a different hike every day at the Chiloé National Park and trek towards la Punta Pirulil and el Muelle de las Almas.

The only thing that was missing from this trip was the typical Chilote cuisine, which we were very eager to try. Since it was low season, none of the local restaurants near the national park were open. There were two local mini-markets where you could get canned and dried good, and a handful of frozen items. Needless to say, we were happy they had wine to take back to the hostel.

The Chiloé National Park

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El Parque Nacional de Chiloé

El Parque Nacional de Chiloé is small, so you can do all the hikes in a day. At the beginning you’ll find a small museum about the history culture in Chiloé.

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Sand Dunes

We enjoyed the hike through the sand dunes. Don’t let the name fool you, the sand dunes aren’t bare but forested. You’ll go from walking on a forest floor surrounded by twisting trees and colorful flowers to walking over sand between low shrubs. We felt like the only ones in the park, and town for that matter, and it was a unique and beautiful experience to walk through a forest and hear waves crashing onto a beach far off in the distance.

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The beach from the viewpoint.

La Punta Pirulil and el Muelle de las Almas

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I wrote about the Mapuche belief and Chilote legend behind this esoteric place. Getting there without a car or tour wasn’t easy – you could trek 7 hours there and back or hire a car service to take you to the entrance. We chose the latter.

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It was worth the trouble and I enjoyed this hike more than the National Park, despite slipping in mud twice because of the morning rain (take appropriate shoes!). At some points, you’re at an impressive precipice with a view of the ocean ahead of you and forest and plains behind you dotted by herds of cow, sheep and lonely horses.

It’s actually private property, so you oddly have to pay the entrance fee and acquire a key at a farmhouse halfway between town and the entrance.
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Other Things To Do in the Area

You can kayak, and either rent a boat by the hour or do something more epic, like red-eye kayaking to watch the sunrise on the lake. It’s also a great place to do some bird watching and horseback riding.

Where to Stay

We stayed at Hostel Palafito Cucao, right on the banks of the lake and a short walk from the Chiloé National Park. It was a highlight of our experience as it provided a bit of luxury and comfort in this rural town while maintaining their idea of disconnecting from the outside world to really appreciate and take in the area. They do not have televisions, but instead had board games to play around the fireplace and a hot-tub to take a dip in or kayak during the day.

There were a few other hostels, but mainly campsites and cabins nearby as well.

How to get to Cucao

You can get to Castro, Chiloé from Puerto Montt by bus (about 4.5 hours) at their main bus terminal. Once there, you go to the local bus terminal just down the street from the regional terminal, and take a local bus terminal to the national park (about 1-2 hours), which runs about once every hour.

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Local bus running to and from Cucao from Castro.

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