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At Tierra Chiloé, the Adventure Includes Food

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On Chiloé island, off the coast of southern Chile, awaits an intimate luxury lodge that makes it a mission to acquaint its guests with the distinctive local lifestyle. To encourage that understanding and connection, Tierra Chiloé offers all kinds of activities—and some of the most deeply satisfying revolve around food.

Head Chef Natalia Canrio believes that the island is as much about the people and its cuisine as it is about its rugged landscapes and 16 UNESCO World Heritage churches. The menus at Tierra Chiloé change daily and often highlight local seafood, from a simple-yet-flavorful ceviche to a version of the island’s famed curanto, a clam-bake-style platter of shellfish, smoked pork, and potato pancakes.

Guests are welcome to stroll through the on-site vegetable gardens to see and taste what’s growing or ready for harvest. Guide-led excursions by land and sea include a visit to markets like the Cochineria Dalcahue, which has stalls selling beloved Chilote dishes, like seafood or apple empanadas and milcao, a bread made of fried or steamed potato.

In Chiloé, there are more than 300 types of potatoes, and they find a way into nearly every meal. One of the best places to see how they’re grown on the island is by visiting the farm of Sandra Nayman on Isla Quinchao, which produces garlic and several indigenous potato varieties. While there, visitors tour the farm and join Nayman for lunch. A taste of her homemade spirits and marmalades, as well as the breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean from the farm’s rolling hills, only sweeten the experience.

Water-based adventures include excursions on Tierra Chiloé’s traditional Chilean vessel, the Williche. From this wooden boat, guests can board kayaks and visit local mussel farms to observe the long strings of bivalves that plunge into the sea. Occasional stops to view the catch of local fisherman may result in a purchase to taste later at the hotel, or even sooner. Excursion lunches and dinners are hosted aboard the ship, so if the captain buys sea urchin, it may become an immediate appetizer to enjoy right on the ocean.

One of the best treats after an adventure in Chiloé is one of Tierra Chiloé’s made-to-order cocktails. The Ulmo Sour is prepared with pisco and ulmo honey (a honey found right on the island) and the Nalca Sour trades the honey for a pink juice made from the fuzzy leaves of the nalca plant (that you can view from the windows of the hotel).

A traditional food of the Chiloé archipelago, curanto is a special treat for guests and staff at Tierra Chiloé. First, extremely hot rocks are placed at the bottom of an earthen pit; then, a layer of shellfish is added, followed by chunks of meat, chicken, chorizo, and potatoes. The pit is then covered with nalca leaves. As the shellfish cooks, the shells spring open, releasing their juices onto the hot rocks and steaming the rest of the ingredients. This layered seafood medley takes hours to cook, but the time passes easily when you’re savoring a bottle of Chilean wine or a Nalca Sour by the outdoor fireplace of Tierra Chiloé as the sun sets.

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