Founded in 1567 by the Spanish, Castro is Chile’s third-oldest city and home to roughly 29,000 people. It is the transportation hub and tourism center of Chiloé — a 41-island archipelago which includes Isla Grande de Chiloé, the continent’s fifth-largest island and where Castro is found. Traces of the area’s past can be found in the historic churches — 16 of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites — that dot the isle. Another form of arresting architecture exists in the palafitos, the region’s unique waterfront wooden homes that sit atop stilts.
The city of Castro itself is a walker’s paradise. A stroll south from the main square (the Plaza de Armas, where the Iglesia de San Francisco is located) to the Museo Regional and on to the Mercado Artesanal de Castro along the coast provides a delightful itinerary. Just outside the town center is the Museo de Arte Moderno on a hilltop in a municipal park, where there are lovely views of the city and the bay. Each February, the Festival Costumbrista of Chilote food, crafts, music and dance takes over the area and is equally popular with locals and visitors to Castro.