We left early in the morning from the Santiago Bus terminal, our destination today was the Ilsa de Negra, a journey of one hour and thirty six minutes.
Isla Negra is a coastal area in El Quisco commune in central Chile some 45 km (70 km by road) south of Valparaiso and 96 km (110 km by road) west of Santiago.
Isla Negra is best known as the residence of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who lived there at Casa de Isla Negra (with long periods of travel and exile) from 1939 until his death in 1973. The area was christened by Neruda himself, after the dark outcrop of rocks just offshore. It literally means “Black Island” in Spanish. The Casa de Isla Negra is now a museum that is well visited all year around and especially during summer.
Every year on Neruda’s birthday (July 12), there are celebrations, both at the house and in the artisans’ square nearby. There are poetry readings, music and picnics on the beach.
Although most tourists come in buses to see Neruda’s house, there is also a thriving community of writers, artists and artisans who live in Isla Negra and the surrounding area. It is a favourite vacation spot for middle-class families from Santiago and there are many cabins and restaurants, craft shops, an Imaginary Boat open to visitors up Av. Central and the possibility of eco-tours.
The incessant crash of the waves against black rocks led Nobel Prize winning poet Pablo Neruda, to select this place as the backdrop of his most famous home. Many of those who visit this area come to learn more about this Chilean legend, who lived here in the 1940s.
The arrival is deceptive. Though it is located just off the highway, we had to follow winding dirt roads to reach the enormous house/museum, which is flanked by tall pine trees. Currently administered by the Neruda Foundation, its more than 500 square meters contain many of the fascinating items that the poet collected: figureheads that once graced the bows of ships, masks of all kinds, bottles, photographs, boxes containing strange insects and butterflies, Latin American pottery, carved figures from Easter Island, clocks, navigational instruments, maps of the world and conch shells of all shapes and sizes.
In the house’s garden, are a bell tower, a boat, a fountain, and the tombs of Pablo Neruda and his last wife, Matilde Urrutia, which look out onto the ocean.
It’s easy to get to Neruda’s house, but if you get lost, as we did, you can ask any of the locals where to find it. Neruda has become the great icon of this town, which is part of the municipality of El Tabo, 111 km west of Santiago.
The spirit of the poet, who passed away shortly after the 1973 military coup, lives on here. You can find murals depicting Neftalí Reyes (his real name), small crafts fairs with paintings of the bard and restaurants with seafood dishes named in honour of his best-known verses.
Isla Negra has a small beach with a view of the open-air bell tower at Neruda’s home. To the north, there are an enormous rock formation facing the Pacific and its large waves. This area is called Punta de Tralca, and it is a popular destination for spiritual retreats. Further south is the popular resort town of El Tabo.