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The curving natural harbour of Castro lies just off the coast of Chile on the picturesque island of Chiloe, marked by distinctive, brightly-coloured wooden houses that stand on tall stilts in the bay. This fishing town is surrounded by breathtaking views of the sea and the rolling hills beyond, and the urban area hides its fare share of treasures too.
There are plenty of attractions in this charming destination, in particular some incredible all-wood architecture in the region's churches and cathedral. The island's national parkland is a sightseeing must, as is the area's important museum devoted to the nation's contemporary art:
The striking, canary-yellow wooden cathedral on the Plaza de Castro is a landmark you can't miss during your time in the city. Built at the turn of the last century, the structure makes for an equally impressive sight on the inside – all the columns, arches, domes and architectural flourishes being made entirely of bare wood. The cathedral's unique construction sets it apart from others in the country, and has made it a national monument – but there are also many other churches in the region well worth seeing. A shore excursion may well include a tour of these churches, often made entirely of wood using traditional ship-building techniques.
Chileo National Park
The vast, untouched expanses of this beautiful parkland make it an incredible place to see Chile at its wildest. Take a guided excursion across grassland and through rich forest, full of spectacular local wildlife. The park resides in the Lakeland region of Chiloe Island, where vast grasslands, distant snow-tipped mountains and still lakes make the ideal place to get away from it all. Enjoy a gentle stroll along boardwalks, and magnificent views of the cliffs and coast beyond.
Castro Modern Art Museum
Pay a visit to this spacious wood-shingle museum in the heart of Castro's parkland for a look at the forerunners in Chile's contemporary visual expression. The museum as an entity was born out of necessity, when it became clear in the late eighties that there was nowhere for modern Chilean art to be housed. The building resides in a small, independently funded complex surrounded by green space; what better location to slow down and take in the visual ideas of modern Chilean artists?
There's plenty to see and do around Castro and the surrounding area, but make sure you leave some time for a little shopping too. Clothing accounts for much of the souvenir trade in the city, with locally-made woollen gloves, jumpers and ponchos being particular favourites. Alternatively, you may be able to pick up traditional baskets and other crafts, or even a good bottle of the local spirit.
The city offers a fantastic choice of fine dining, from traditional Chilean eats featuring freshly caught salmon and abalone, to vegetarian options and even sushi, if you're looking for some more international fare. Expect first-class service and spectacular views of the wide surrounding bay and the hillsides beyond, often accompanied by local music.
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