Tierra Chiloe, Chile – hotel review

Published in The Independent on Sunday on January 23, 2016

You might not expect an angular wooden box to fit in on the pretty island of Chiloé. But while Santiago-based architect Mobil has created a striking silhouette, the design references the charming vernacular architecture of the local villages: its raised-up structure nods to the palafitos, houses on wooden stilts over water. The building is weather-proofed in the traditional way, with shingles made from larch, and with its raised position come views over the archipelago – also named Chiloé.

This all-inclusive hotel initially opened under different ownership in 2012, but relaunched in its current incarnation last September. It is the third property in the Tierra chain and, like its siblings, it encourages exploration as much as relaxation and has an elegantly rustic charm. Pack walking boots, not heels.

Rates include group day-trips, from hiking to pony-trekking – although best of all is island-hopping on the hotel’s private boat, the Williche (which means “people of the south” in the language of the indigenous Mapuche people). As well as feasting on freshly caught mussels, cooked on-board and washed down with a pisco sour, our trip included dolphin-spotting and sea-kayaking. The twinkly guide, Ana, a native, was full of information on local traditions and she shared a few eyebrow-raising myths. Ana delighted in telling us about Trauco, a lascivious woodland troll who gets blamed for unplanned pregnancies.

What about that all-inclusive tag? Banish thoughts of Brits abroad going mad at the bar and buffet; this is a classy venture, and the food is seriously good (as it should be, given the price tag). It’s a perfect showcase for the island’s excellent seafood, from ceviche to salmon and mussels. There’s a buffet breakfast, and three courses for lunch and dinner; staff pack ridiculously sumptuous picnics for excursions, replete with booze. And if you join other guests by the fire to watch the sunset with a glass of wine, you will be plied with even more seafood.


While Chiloé may have less dramatic scenery than Tierra’s sites in Patagonia and Atacama, it offers a glimpse into the culture and history of this southern island community. With gentle hills, Pacific views and tiny islands – each with colourfully painted churches, protected by Unesco – Chiloé offers a quaint slice of rural life.

Rates include a transfer from the airport at nearby Castro: a half-hour rumbly drive down ever-smaller tracks. Castro airport is tiny, however, with its irregular flights often cancelled. Many prefer to fly to major transport hub Puerto Montt, on the mainland, and make the three-hour journey to Tierra by land and sea from there; ask for advice when booking.


With just 12 en-suite rooms, the hotel has an intimate feel. After days spent on excursions, a familial easiness grew between guests chilling out in the lounge in the evening. The policy of no TV in the room helps, but email-junkies can relax: there’s efficient wi-fi throughout.

Huge glass windows in each room, and wrapped around the ground floor, ensure this small hotel feels airy. Honey-and-copper-toned Chiloén manio and ulmo wood is used for floors, walls and ceilings; it’d be like living in a sauna, if it weren’t so spacious.

The island has a rich craft tradition; women spin, weave and knit wool from their farms, which is reflected in Tierra’s decor, with throws, rugs, wall-hangings and even adorable little hand-made slippers for each guest to take away, all made locally. Hand-woven baskets dot the hotel, while hand-carved wooden piglets snuffle along surfaces. If this all sounds a bit twee, fear not – these are subtle additions in neutral colours. Tierra Chiloé may cultivate a rustic look, but think tastefully artisanal, not holiday tat.

Travel essentials

Tierra Chiloé, San Jose Playa, Castro, Chiloé, Chile (00 56 2220 78861; tierrahotels.com)

Rooms ***

Value ****

Service *****

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