Isla Negra is a small town in the San Antonio province about an hour away from Valparaíso. Although its name translates to “Black Island” this town is not located on one, instead its name was given to the location by the famous poet and Nobel Prize winner Pablo Neruda, who lived there until his death.
Pablo Neruda Museum: “La casa de Isla Negra”
Whether or not you like poetry, Pablo Neruda’s house in Isla Negra is a must go for everyone specially the ones who enjoys architecture and oddity museums. Of course you will enjoy this visit even more if you are Neruda’s fan, but again, it is not necessary.
- March – December: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 18:00
- January – February: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 – 21:00
Closed on Mondays
- General: CLP$6.000 (about USD$8,50)
- Students or Chilean Seniors: CLP$2.000 (USD$3,00)
We arrived at 11:30 AM to the museum and they gave us tickets for the 13:00 PM tour group, so a good advice would be trying to get there earlier, although there is a lot to do near the museum so for us was not a big deal.
The house it self is a long and narrow rock and wood structure, reminiscent of a boat or a train (as it is intended to), decorated with his many collections that include musical instruments, preserved insects, figureheads, navigation instruments, and other sea related items. Neruda used to call himself “Land Captain”
In addition to exploring this incredible and stunning house you learn about his work and his excentric private life through a recorded audio guide system called audioguía, so you can explore at your own pace. This guide will take you through the entire house ending at Neruda’s grave where you can sit and watch the sea.
Note: The audiogía is in spanish only.
What to do in Isla Negra
Go to the beach
Right in front of Neruda’s museum is the Isla Negra Beach, from where one can admire the view that inspired the poet and also get a good tan.
The beach is not very appropiate for swimming and like most of chilean beaches, it has really cold water, but is really nice and it is close to the museum if you need to kill time while you wait for your turn.
Crafts fairs and gift shops
This town turns around Neruda so there is a lot of gift shops and crafts fairs to visit where you can buy items made by the local craftmen, mainly jewelry, decoration and Pablo Neruda memorabilia, that include replicas of the most important figureheads from the museum.
La Nave Imaginaria: The Imaginary Ship
The Imaginary Ship is another house-ship hybrid, but unlike the Neruda Museum the “Captain” and home owner invites you to touch, play and feel like a child again.
Where to eat
For the time you have done all of these things you will probably be hungry, and we found the perfect place to eat.
Located in the main street, Isidora Dubornais, there is a small restaurant, the Cafe-Bar Calú. We had heard a lot about this place and it did not dissapoint.
It has a rustic look mixed with an antique store feeling, and of course, decorated with Neruda and sea related items.
As food is concerned, it is not far behind. They offer Chilean Sandwiches and seafood fried empanadas, but the later are the stars of this place.
Empanadas are the most typical chilean street/fast food, and usually one would need two of them to be satisfied; in this restaurant the empanadas are so big that with one or less you would be done.
To drink ask for a freshly made juice prepared with season fruit. In summer you can expect kiwi, cantaloupe, berries, orange, banana, mango and more. I tried the kiwi and orange ones and honestly they were the most delicious and pulpy juices i have ever had in my life.
So, the place is nice and cozy, the food and drink are delicious… so how about the price? Well, it is unexpectedly cheap, not only in comparison to other restaurants in the town but in general. No wonder why this place has so many good reviews.
For example, I had a shrimp and cheese fried empanada that was too big for me to even finish eating and a big glass of orange juice for just CLP$5.000 or about US$7,00.
El Canelo, Algarrobo
Isla Negra is a really small town and there is not much to do outside the things listed above, so in our trip we decided to go north to Algarrobo, specifically to the El Canelo Forest and El Canelo Beach, these are about 20 minutes away by car or bus and about two hours by foot.
El Canelo Forest
Is not too common to find a forest near the sea, but El Canelo is exactly that, a beautifull pine forest that is the main entrance to the beach.
We spent around half an hour walking through the forest, taking pictures and just enjoying the view. At one point a beautiful picture revealed to us, we had arrived to El Canelo Beach.
The route we took to the beach is not the main entrance, there is a more direct way were you don’t have to walk half an hour to get there, but if you have the time you definitly should took the forest route.
El Canelo beach
This is a postcard kind of beach, with clear turquoise water and white sand, it could look almost caribean if it was not for the forest that surrounds it and makes it more “private” but also really unique.
Things to do in El Canelo Beach
The first thing we noted when we got to this point was the canopy line, it is kind of far from the beach but it is worth it, not only is a fun and thrilling, but also it gives you a full view of the beach for CLP$5.000 (US$7,00).
There were also banana boats, but it seems that we got there too late (18:30)
In El Canelo beach or any chilean beach do not forget to try the “palmeras” sweet and crispy dish sized pastry similar in taste to the palmier.
At the end of the day we headed back to Valparaíso at 19:00, exhausted but happy because in 8 and a half hours we were able to visit a lot of beautiful places.
For More Information on “La casa de Isla Negra” or any of the other houses of Pablo Neruda, visit the Pablo Neruda’s Foundation site here: http://www.fundacionneruda.org/es