About 15 kilometers east of Curaco de Vélez , accessible Achao has more sights and better services than any other offshore island town in the archipelago. Famous for its February folk festival, it dates from the mid-18th century, when it was home to a Jesuit mission to the Chonos Indians.
Achao’s Plaza de Armas occupies a site at the east end of the town’s rectangular grid, which reaches only about three blocks inland from the shoreline. Most services are along Calle Serrano, which ends at the Embarcadero (fishing jetty), while its sights are in the vicinity of the plaza.
Small but professionally arranged, the Fondart-sponsored Museo de Achao (Delicias and Amunátegui) has exhibits of Chilote basketry, weaving, pottery, boatbuilding, and videos on Chilote culture. It’s open 10 a.m.–8 p.m. daily in summer; admission costs US$0.60.
On the Plaza’s south side, dating from 1764, the Iglesia Santa María de Achao (Pedro Montt and Zañartu) is the archipelago’s oldest standing church; only three years later, its Jesuit builders were expelled from the continent. Built of alerce and cypress, covered with alerce shingles and firmly fixed with wooden pegs in lieu of nails, this national monument has undergone a major restoration to save it from dry rot and termites.
Achao’s biggest annual event is early February’s Encuentro Folklórico de las Islas del Archipiélago, which draws folkloric vocal and instrumental groups from throughout Chiloé . At the same time, the best of Chilote cuisine is on the table at the Muestra Gastronómica y Artesanal, where the archipelago’s artisans also sell their handiwork.
Several economical but acceptable shared-bath accommodations offer bed and breakfast, such as Hospedaje São Paulo (Serrano 052, tel. 065/661245, US$9–13 pp), which has a diverse restaurant menu. Friendly Hostal Plaza (Amunátegui 20, tel. 065/661283, US$19 d) is a fine choice with private bath and breakfast, if you can ignore the hideous bedspreads.
Best of the bunch, though, is cozy Hospedaje Sol y Lluvia (Ricardo Jara 09, tel. 065/661383, US$11–15 pp) with an elaborate breakfast. There’s also the beachfront Hostería La Nave (Prat s/n, tel. 065/661219, hosterialanave [at] latinmail [dot] com, US$24–36 d).
At the foot of the Embarcadero, Mar y Velas (Serrano 02, tel. 065/661375) serves fine seafood.
Achao’s helpful Oficina de Información Turística (Serrano and Ricardo Jara, www.islaquinchao.cl ) keeps long hours in January and February but closes the rest of the year.