ANCUD is a pretty little seaside town and a lively fishing port; numerous visitors find themselves preferring the relaxed pace of life here to the hustle and bustle of grittier Castro. Built on a small, square promontory jutting into the Canal de Chacao and the Golfo de Quetalmahue, the town centres on the pretty Plaza de Armas (undergoing complete renovation at the time of writing), which fills with craft stalls and street musicians in the summer. The colourful Mercado Municipal, one block to the north, is the place to grab a cheap meal or pick up fresh produce and some local crafts, though there’s a more attractive temporary produce and crafts market a few blocks east of the centre along Arturo Prat.
The town also makes a good base for exploration of the northern half of the island. Among the attractions are a day-trip to the penguin colony at Puñihuil, a drive to the nearby Península Lacuy (itself the start of the Chiloé section of the Sendero de Chile) or a rattle along the gravel roads that link the tiny villages along the east coast.
Ancud was founded in 1769 as a Spanish stronghold and, after Peruvian independence in 1824, became the crown’s last desperate foothold in South America. Its forts resisted one attempt at capture, but finally fell in January 1826 when the lonely and demoralized Spanish garrison fled into the forest in the face of a small criollo attack. The remains of these Spanish forts – Fuerte San Antonio in the town and Fuerte Agüi on a peninsula to the northwest – can still be visited today.