Located in the center of the main island of Chiloé, 172 kilometers from Puerto Montt, Castro is the gateway to the rest of the archipelago. Though it is nestled among rolling hills and lush vegetation, this city offers a wide array of tourist services and service to other locales on Chiloé and its islets. Castro was founded in 1567 by Martín Ruiz de Gamboa, and is now a favorite destination for backpackers.
Stroll around the city, visit its seafood restaurants and craft shops and admire the colorful “palafitos” perched along the water’s edge. These classic wooden-tiled houses are built on stilts so they seem to float when the tide is high. The Puente Gamboa lookout offers the best view in Castro.
The Spanish Jesuits who came to the island around 1600 to evangelize the native Huilliche and Ona people left an indelible mark: their wooden Chilota churches, each of which is an architectural treasure. The largest, Iglesia San Francisco de Castro, boasts an orange-colored facade and steeples that tower over the main square. Try to visit on a sunny day, when the light streams in through the glass windows and illuminates the interior.
Visiting during the summer months? Discover Chilota culture at the February Festival Costumbrista de Castro. This annual event is a must-see that showcases local music, arts and crafts, food and dance. For shopping, check out the Feria Artesanal de Castro, then head to the Museo de Arte Moderno de Chiloé to be surprised by local artists’ work.
Once you’ve explored Castro, you may want to escape to the peaceful island of Mechuque or visit Chiloé National Park. If you’re visiting during March and April, go whale watching with one of Castro’s several tour operators or hire a private boat.
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