Typical "Palafitos" construction in Castro, Chile


The city of Castro is located at 101 miles from Puerto Montt and at 737 miles from Santiago, Chile. The main economic activity of Castro is its fishing industry, complemented by the agriculture, which production is destined for the local market. Castro was founded on February 12, 1567 by Captain Martín Ruiz de Gamboa, which makes it the third oldest city of Chile, after Santiago and La Serena.

The location of the city of Castro, at the very center of the Chiloé Island, makes it a base city allowing an easy access to nearby localities. Castro is the Province’s capital, a growing administrative center with commercial, finance, educational, tourist, cultural and social activities. Castro lies on a small terrace, between 114 and 164 feet above sea level and borders a cove on the East and the Gamboa river on the West, which makes it a cozy city with a magnificent place for anchorage. Its strategic location in the fjord and its surrounding landscape shape the city into a very unique place.

Castro has had a spectacular urban and residential development, comprehending many areas. Castro maintains the appearance of a city mixed with touches from the Chiloé island in multiple forms. Its houses follow a design pattern that promotes the family concentration around the big dining-kitchen area. Due to the topography of Castro, and added to the cultural aspect, a particular urban solution can be distinguished such as the stilt houses (palafitos). Modernity combines with the traditions in Castro, one of the oldest cities of our country, with an ongoing existence and long history.

It’s important to point out the architecture of the city of Castro, which is essentially based on the construction of over the water, called
stilt houses (palafitos). Also, of great interest in Castro is the San Francisco Church , declared National Monument on July 19, 1979 and Cultural Legacy of the Humanity on December of 2000. The church was built by the Franciscans, successors of the Jesuits, in replacement of the churches that were burned in 1861 and 1902. It was projected in a Neogothic style by the Italian architect Eduardo Provasoli, to be built on cement; but it was erected by the local craftsmen on wood, between 1910 and 1912. Its impressive seizes, 170 feet long and 88 feet wide, make it the biggest church of the island. Also, astonishing are the carpentry work on the cornices, and its archway, altar and choir as well. Native woods such as alerce (Fitzroya cupressoides), cypress, coigüe (Nothofagus nitida), among others, were used, and also the so called reddish woods such as raulí (Nothofagusalpina Poepp) and olivillo (Aextoxicon punctatum). The façade, roof and exterior areas were made with galvanized iron.

From its location there’s a view of the entire city of Castro. Masses are held between December and February, form Tuesday to Saturday at 8 pm, and Sunday at 9 am, 11 am and 8 pm; from March to November, from Tuesday to Saturday at 7 pm, and Sunday and holidays at 9 am, 11 am and 7 pm.

Castro city located in the Big Island of Chiloe

Castro city located in the Big Island of Chiloe

It’s recommended to visit the Regional Museum of Castro (Museo Regional de Castro), which houses a notable collection of objects and gadgets of the inhabitants of the Chiloé Island , related to wood culture, such as locks, musical instruments and mashing machines.

A must do in Castro is a walk by the Costanera del Puerto, which is a big commercial and crafts complex. The boats and schooners come here, after making their daily routes from the islands, to sell their products at the shore. There are also the stalls of the Crafts Fair (Feria Artesanal) and the stilt food places, with a great variety of seafood and produces of the land. Nearby you will find the shipyard of ships from the Chiloé Island, built with scented Guaitecas cypress (ciprés de las Guaitecas). Continue your trip along the Municipal Park (Parque Municipal), where the Chiloé island Traditional Festival (Festival Costumbrista Chilote) is held. This is a multitudinous and vivid feast of gastronomy, folklore, traditional chores and customs from the people from the Chiloé island, which are still preserved. It lasts one week during February, and here the gastronomy of the Chiloé island is elaborated and exhibited; you will find meat and seafood cooked in a hole (curanto), yoco (food prepared with pork grease fat), milcao (potato bread), chochoca (potato bread), tapados , mellas (potato bread), pulmay (curanto cooked in a casserole), barbecues (asados), mistelas (sweet liquor) and licor de oro (whey liquor). When tasting some of the traditional food at any of the 55 stalls of the festival, you will also be able to appreciate the local folklore.

The Modern Art Museum of Chiloé (Museo de Arte Moderno de Chiloé [MAM]) in Castro was founded in 1988 by a group of persons interested in contemporary art. It’s a space for housing the contemporary art that’s constantly created in the country, with the aim of contributing to the cultural development of Chile and preserve its artistic legacy. It has one of the most important collections of Chilean contemporary art. During summer, the annual contemporary art exhibit is organized, and each time a different group of artists is invited. It’s an independent museum, supported by the visitors’ donations.

Among the nearby attractions of the city of Castro, we can mention the following:



At the Llaullao is a village where stands out its houses built with small tiles, and also an old magnificent polychromic chapel that has a unique location. The Feast of Nuestra Señora de Lourdes is celebrated here on January 24. Llaullao is located at 2.4 miles to the north of Castro, by the road to Dalcahue.


(Places of dalcas)

Dalcahue has an urban population of about 3,000. Dalcahue is a prosperous and charming town, whose location serves as a ferry port for ferries going to Quinchao island. Its name originates from the Dalcas, the ships made of three pieces of wood tight together that Chonos People used for transportation. Dalcahue grew as a town during the rise of the lumber and cattle industries at the end of the XIX century, becoming then the second mechanized sawmill in South America.

It’s recommended to visit in Dalcahue the Church of Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Iglesia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores), declared National Monument, which was built in 1858 over the base of the former missionary chapel from the XVII century; is one of the biggest in Chiloé and it has been declared Cultural Legacy of Humanity. It has a portico with nine arches and a tower looking over the channel. Its interior, of three naves, has an altar with dressed wooden saints; there are also ornamental pieces and valuable documents of the parish that form a small religious museum. Masses are held on Saturday at 6 pm and Sunday at 11 am; the museum is open every day from 9 am to 6 pm.

The Oceanside road of Dalcahue is the city’s hub, with intense commercial activity. There you find the Dalcahue Cultural Center , formed by a library and the interesting Ethnographic Historical Museum (Museo Histórico Etnográfico), targeted to the history of the races of the Chonos and Huilliches or Villiches cultures. In one room there’s an exhibit of the evolution of the people from the Chiloé island through their crafts, wood usage, folkloric instruments, ceramics collections, coins, wild fauna, and landscape and people photographs. The Center is open from Monday to Sunday, from 8 a, to 6 pm; during summer until 8 pm. The admission is free.

On the Oceanside road of Dalcahue we can find the Crafts Fair, which has a very old tradition; craftsmen come on Thursday and, especially on Sunday mornings, from the islands to offer wool fabrics such as blankets, choapinos (little carpets), shawls and caps. There are also wickerwork and carved wood, among others. Since this fair attracts many tourists, usually there are also local singers and musicians performing on a scenario in front of the Municipality: around it, there are stalls offering typical food from the islands. The rest of the days of the week there are the regular craft salespeople. The fair of Dalcahue is the only one that offers a variety of traditional designs elaborated in the island. The fair of Puerto Montt, is managed by middlemen who only buy the products that are most requested by the tourists.

At the entrance of the town of Dalcahue you can visit the shipyard, where you can appreciate the work of boats construction by the carpenters of the bank; its big keels, the frame cut off from a tree branch, copper nails and the caulking with tow from alerce´s bark.

The Island of the Churches

Church of Nercón

It’s located in Nercón, at 2.4 miles towards the south of Castro. Its feast, every 8 of September, is held in homage to the Virgin of Gracia.

The construction of the temple of Nercón was started by the middle of the XIX century and was completed in 1890. Alerce and cypress were utilized to lift its 131 feet long, 49.2 wide and 82 feet of height of the tower.

From the Church of Nercón (Iglesia de Nercón) stands out its tutelary image of Archangel San Miguel and the firmness of its tower on the facade that has two tambours covered with small tiles.

The Church of Nercón has received external contributions that have made possible its conservation and a recent restoration, opening a new exhibit room in the choir.

The Church of Nercón was declared National Monument on 1984 and Cultural Legacy of Humanity on December of 2000.

Church de Rilán

The Church of Rilán (Iglesia de Rilán) is located on the way out of Castro towards Dalcahue. The Church of Rilán it’s situated on the square of the Rilán locality, at 16.7 miles of Castro. Its main religious feast takes place on February 11, in homage to Nuestra Señora de Lourdes.

It’s not known when the chapel was built, but there are records of its existence from the beginning of 1658. In the actual temple, built in the beginning of the XX century, the maturity of the architecture school from the Chiloé island is depicted.

From the building of the Church of Rilán stands out its vault of stone and the structure of coigüe, cypress and cinnamon trees, and tepa (Laureliopsis philipiana) coating.

In spite of being one of the most preserved churches of the Chiloé island, the Church of Rilán has suffered modifications such as the change of the small tiles of the roof for galvanized iron and the lowered of the tower.

The Church of Rilán was declared National Monument in 1971 and Cultural Legacy of the Humanity on December of 2000.

Church of Santa María de Loreto

Declared National Monument and Cultural Legacy of Humanity, the Church of Santa María de Loreto (Iglesia Santa María de Loreto) is the oldest one of Chiloé. It was started to be built in 1764 and was finished after the expulsion of the Jesuit Order from the territories of the Colony in 1767. Built on cypress and alerce wood, the Church of Santa María de Loreto was assembled with pegs of luma wood (Amomyrtus luma). Originally it had big lateral eaves for keeping the pilgrims covered from the rain. Its interior, considered one of the richest in its ornamental details, has a beautiful ceiling indigo blue colored. The saints, banisters and ornaments of its altar are of beautiful Baroque style. The Church of Santa María de Loreto was restored after the earthquake of 1960 and in 1998.

Church of Quinchao

Declared National Monument and Cultural Legacy of Humanity, this construction of the XVII century was restored in Neoclassic style at the end of the XIX century. The Church of Quinchao is the biggest church from the Colony period in Chiloé island. Each 8th of December, hundreds of pilgrims come here to celebrate the feast of the Virgin of the Gracia. The interior of the Church de Quinchao is very simple, with a beautiful altarpiece in the altar and a floor with large planks worked with an ax. Today is being restored, but the building needs an urgent consolidation work, since it’s being propped up in many areas. In the large esplanade a cross surrounded by a modest fence called “Garden of Flowers”, reminds a missionary visit.

Church of San Carlos de Borroneo

Declared National Monument and Cultural Legacy of Humanity, the Church of San Carlos de Borroneo (Iglesia de San Carlos de Borroneo) is one of the biggest one of the island. The Church of San Carlos de Borroneo has a portico with five arches and a tower of three bodies. In its interior exhibits a detailed work on wood on the columns and altar.

Church of Ichuac

A National Monument and a Cultural Legacy of Humanity, this church was built at the beginning of the XX century, and decorated with Neoclassic style, with an inlay design on the portico’s archway with one piece columns, supported on bases and arches ornamented underneath the same portico. The central nave of the Church of Ichuac has a lowered vault and supported on columns with no arches.

Access to Castro, Chiloé.
By bus from Santiago, Chile, 18 hours, departing from Bus station Santiago in “Universidad de Santiago” subway station. Crossing with Ferry through the Chacao channel

By car, through the Pan-american highway heading south and crossing Chacao Channel by ferry.

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