The Corral and Chaihuin Area
Corral is a beautiful, historic town of approximately 3,500 urban residents and 1,700 rural residents. Despite being a rural town, Corral attracts many tourists from all over the world and Chile. In the town itself, the main attraction is the historic forts that were built in 1645 to protect the city of Valdivia. Currently the forts are still standing and the beautiful town square that overlooks the ocean borders them. As you drive off of the ferry and turn left to Corral you will drive up on a picturesque view of the Corral bay filled with many fishing boats and houses of all different colors spread out amongst the green hills.
In the town of Corral there are approximately seven large stores that carry groceries and household items, two bakeries, a meat store, two hardware stores, many seasonal fruterias (small vegetable stores), about twelve restaurants, a city hall, fire station, police station, gas station, ATM, Armada de Chile office, and a post office. All of the stores and restaurants are independently owned and many will special order anything that you want.
If you take a right as you leave the ferry, you will see a wood chip yard/port and depending on the time, there may be an impressive 700 foot long “chip ship” in the port. We always enjoy watching the ship get loaded with wood chips as the highly efficient loading system delivers the chips to the boat.
As you follow that road, which also follows the coastline, you will come across many small “towns” or communities that are not labeled on most maps. These communities line the road all the way to Chaihuin. In these little towns, you will find small stores and restaurants that are sometimes only open during the summer months. As you get closer to Chaihuin, a town that attracts many tourists, there will be areas for camping and cabanas that are open during the summer months with a few that stay open year round.
After following this road for about 30 kilometers, you will reach Chaihuin. This is a town that is smaller than Corral, but is better suited to host tourists. There are many cabanas, restaurants, camping areas, and a few small stores to buy food and other supplies. Chaihuin is a popular tourism spot, since within walking distance you can go to the Chaihuin river, the Parque Alerce National Forest (which is part of the Valdivian rainforest), or visit the ocean with beautiful sandy beaches. Five kilometers past Chaihuin is a little fishing community called Huiro. This community doesn't offer anything to the public other than a restaurant, but nearby there is a sea lion colony that can be viewed. Otters, penguins, whales, and birds are also frequently spotted near this colony as well.
Living in Corral
Access to Corral
Corral can be accessed by either road or ferry. There is a well maintained logging road that goes through beautiful countryside and meets up with the main highway to Valdivia. The trip takes about an hour and fifteen minutes, but it is an excellent sightseeing trip. The other route to Corral is by either car ferry or passenger ferry. These ferries leave from Niebla, which is eight miles west of Valdivia. Currently there is only one, large government operated car ferry that also carries passengers and leaves from Niebla on the even hours and leaves from Corral on the odd hours, but as of June 2016 there will be a second ferry making the schedule every hour. This car ferry runs from 7:00am to 12:00pm. Private car ferries run occasionally (more often in the summer), but they do not have a set schedule at the moment. Next to the car ferry dock, there is a recently built passenger ferry dock as well as a second passenger ferry dock in the town of Niebla. These run every hour or more often depending on the time of year. If you use the passenger ferries and need to get to Valdivia, then there is a bus line with about ten buses that make the trip all day long. This trip costs about .90 US cents. Considering the location, Corral is a very accessible town and there is always some way to get to Valdivia at almost any hour of the day.
Travel in Corral
The town of Corral has good paved roads, with the rural areas having maintained dirt roads. As of December, 2015 they are paving the road going towards Chaihuin and adding in new sidewalks going through Corral and several kilometers towards Chaihuin. There are several government buses that make frequent trips through Corral and all the way past Chaihuin to Huiro. In addition to these buses, there are many small, private buses and two taxis that also make frequent routes.
Healthcare in Corral
One aspect that sets Corral apart from many other rural areas in Chile, is its newly built, over-sized, state of the art hospital. This hospital is staffed with doctors and nurses with overnight staff. There is an ambulance that works for the hospital and for major incidents they transfer people to the Valdivia hospitals.
Buying Supplies in Corral
For those who are not interested in making frequent trips to Valdivia, many supplies can be bought in Corral. Most groceries can be bought in Corral such as fruits, vegetables, fresh meat, processed meat, seafood, dairy products, pantry items, spices, drinks, alcohol, and other groceries. Other items that can be bought are cleaning supplies, toiletries, tools, pet food, paper products, school supplies, and many other household items. If the stores do not sell what you want, then they can usually order it for you. Once a month Corral holds a street market where private vendors sell food, clothes, furniture, tools, used items, new items, hard to find items, etc.
One concern many people have with the Valdivia area is the amount of rainfall it receives. Corral has its own “micro-climate” that is very different than Valdivia, even though it is only a short distance away. During the summer and winter in Corral it is sunnier, has less rain, less fog, less wind (except right on the ocean shore), and is always a few degrees warmer than Valdivia. Many days you can sit in the sun and look out across the bay and see clouds and fog over Valdivia.
Schools and Sports
For expats with children who will need a school, Corral has two newly built schools. The schools go from kindergarten all the way through highschool. Both schools are very modern and were built with expansion in mind. Near Corral there is a sport court and the school has a new ping pong court. Also, near Chaihuin there is a newly built soccer field and sport court.
Recently, there have been many improvements to the Corral area and the government seems to be spending quite a bit of money to update the area. Recent improvements include a new hospital, new schools, sidewalks, paved roads, a second car ferry, LED street lighting, sea walls, updated bus stations, landscaping, and many other improvements. On the private level people are building new houses, cabanas for rent, restaurants, and tourist amenities. There is clearly a plan for expansion in the Corral area, partly due to the growing tourism and growing popularity of the area. We see this area as an excellent investment as it is being built with expansion in mind, so there is really no other way but increased value of the entire area.
Corral is an excellent location for expats who enjoy the benefits of Valdivia, but would like a beautiful, relaxed, countryside retreat with or without beach access. The area has many amenities while still retaining the nice qualities of small town living. For more information on the city of Corral, visit http://www.municipalidadcorral.cl/