Isla Negra

Many times as I read a story I wonder from where the author will have written it. What will be inspired García Márquez to write “Story of a castaway”? The sea will have inspired him? the smell of Colombian coffee? Or perhaps  his source of inspiration was the shower as it was for the mathematician Archimedes when he shouted the famous expression eureka! After discovering during a bath of immersion, the method for determining the volume of an object with an irregular shape.

The truth is that in Chile is located Isla Negra, one of the houses of Pablo Neruda and there I’m going with my partners looking for one of the greatest inspiration of the Chilean poet.

Isla Negra

Isla Negra

The House Museum is one of the most visited tourist attractions of the V Region of Chile. It is located only 73 km from Viña del Mar and 115 km from Santiago de Chile making it ideal for a one day getaway. It is inserted into the coastal landscape and history says that the place used to be called Las Gaviotas and poet renamed it as black island by the color of its rocks and because despite not being an island, there could be insulated to write.

As soon as we entered the home, Neruda welcomes us with a legend engraved on a wall at the entrance: “I´ve returned from my travels. I sailed building happiness”.

Isla Negra

Beautiful message

A Chilean guy that was tall and with dark hair and that I think will be our guide brings us a set of headphones and explains how to move forward on the course. In the audio explanations of each one of the rooms of the House, are built from the welcome which corresponds to the number one, to stay 16, which corresponds to the tomb of his beloved wife Matilde Urrutia and Neruda. It provides historical information including curious and interesting stories of the place and its objects. Like the time that the writer bought this House (before was only a stone cottage) to a Spanish sailor named Don Eladio Sobrino in 1939.
But then the poet wrote: “The house was growing, as people, as the trees…”. And it was growing as he wanted. With the sea as its main attraction.
Isla Negra

Neruda said it was a sailor’s mouth. Did you know that he could not swim?

Neruda, a sea lover, built the House as a boat with low ceilings, crisp wood floors, and narrow aisles where he kept his most unusual collections: figureheads, pipes, bottles, masks, pictures of his favorite poets, bottled boats, replicas of sailing ships and paintings by famous artists. Up one of the many tables there is scattered by the House there is a Chinese compass, a planetary system, books about birds and an impressive collection of sea shells brought from all over the world (this room was a project that the poet left unfinished when he died and that the Neruda Foundation was commissioned to complete).

Through this home made with pieces, with patchwork, with findings, full of colors and stories, I can see the life of the poet. Neruda was, undoubtedly, a passionate collector.
I’m amazed with the huge and old globe of the room of the horse and its history. This place he built especially to house a huge horse of paper mache that he bought and it was owned by a hardware store burned down in Temuco, the city of the South of his childhood. When he was a child, he passed the hardware every day and according to the legend he said that someday was going to buy it. When Neruda noticed about the burned he bought the horse and made a pary to celebrate his new acquisition to which he invited its closest friends. But there was a problem. Due to the flames, the horse had no tail. Three of his guests then gave him ponytails. Neruda put the three, and then said that his horse was the happiest in the world because it was the only one who had 3 tails! 🙂
There are also spaces that commemorate his friendship with some dead poets whose names did record beams of the bar who presides over a boat rudder. I look especially the name of Miguel Hernández. I must admit that for a moment desire to be a Woody Allen character for teletransportarme as in the film “Midnight in París”. And be there among friends poets, speaking of verses, with a drink in the bar that pretends to be a boat and smoking a pipe why not.

Isla Negra

But without a doubt, the place that most attracts my attention is la Covacha. This was one of the places in the House in which Pablo were detained to write. He had given a zinc roof, to hear the sound of rain and evoke the sensations of the home of his childhood, in the rainy South of Chile as well. Neruda said that the sea was a gift that had left opposite his window:
Isla Negra

Ocean view from the House Isla Negra

“The Pacific Ocean was out of map. There were no place to put it. It was so big, messy and blue that it didn’t fit anywhere. That´s the reason why they left it against my window”.

Think that there, he wrote much of his literary work…
Look at that naughty sea from the large window and hear the roar of the waves really inspired. It inspires me that dark smell, mix of salty sand and seaweed. The deep blue sea and surrounded with white foam, black rocks leave me speechless.
And thus with the Pacific Ocean, imposing, I steal a little of that spirit, and I borrow that air with smell of boat and the handful of sand in the pockets. I close my eyes to feel the creak of wood. And I imagine Pablo writing on the desk with his pen and since carrying the costume used in 1971 to receive the Nobel Prize for literature. That is still intact in the closet of his room, which looks like an altar with the head of the bed to the East and the sea to the feet. It would be hours looking at how the waves breaking on the rocks. And then, suddenly, come me to a terrible desire to take off my headphones and sit and write on your desktop. I want visitors to around me disappear. Take his green ink pen and start writing…

Isla Negra

The House has its own personality. It is magical. It saves curious and valuable objects in an environment dominated by the sea. I think that are enough reasons why Neruda decided to be buried in black island next to his beloved wife Matilde. There, where poetry and nature intermingle in a perfect way. In the interior of the House photographs can not be removed. It´s a pity. Already without the audio guide walk nearby with a nostalgic look… the see a House on the beach which was a source of inspiration for poems that have been around the world.
Neruda saw  Isla Negra for the last time in 1973, after the bloody Chilean military coup. He was sick and had to leave the House to go to a hospital in Santiago. In 1992 his remains were moved to Isla Negra when it was thus fulfilled the will that the poet had expressed nearly fifty years earlier in his poem “Provisions” of the Canto general:
“Comrades, enterrad me in Isla Negra, facing the sea, I know, to each area of rough stones and waves that my lost eyes will not see…”
 Isla Negra    Isla Negra

Hints of Isla Negra




  • Guided tour (spanish and english): $4.000 CH.
  • Audio guide (multi-language): $4.000 CH.
  • Students and seniors: $1.500 CH.


  • March to December: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 18 hours.
  • January and February: Tuesday to Sunday from 10 to 20 hours.
  • Closed on Mondays.

Author Gilda

Periodista y viajera. Me gusta contar las historias del camino y sacar fotos. Empezar un año nuevo viajando con amigos se me ha vuelto vicio. Página Web:

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