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The Best of Lima’s Callao Neighborhood: A Guide

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Close to Lima, there is a municipality known as Callao, where you can go to learn about important aspects of Peru’s history. Though frequented by travelers passing through Jorge Chavez International Airport, this municipality not usually recognized as being a place for tourism. But there is still plenty to see. Here is a guide for where to go, and why you should make a visit.

*Though this area is full of sights, just like other parts of Lima that lie outside of the highly visited municipalities of Miraflores and Barranco, it can be a dangerous place if you do not take basic precautions. If you decide to visit Callao, make sure to not go there alone, or late at night. Stick to streets that are populated by others, and if you are in crowds, be sure to watch your belongings.

Background on what makes Callao unique

(Photo: Flickr)

The constitutional municipality of Callao is 15 kilometers from the center of Lima. Its location and port, one of the most important in America, make this a commercial town. It was once a strategic place for defending the viceroyalty. After that, the port played an important role in the country’s movement towards independence, and it also played a role the fight against pirates.

When Peru’s capital was moved from Jauja to Lima during the Spanish Conquest, Callao became an important port and commercial center. It was actually one of the most important ports during the viceregal period. Urban architecture has been enriched by successive waves of immigrants to Peru: Japanese, Germans, Chinese and Italians. You can see this influence in the diverse styles of construction. Later, different neighborhoods were built, but it is in its seaside resort you can find Callao’s greatest historical and architectural wealth.

Contemporary Callao

Aside from being a commercial port, it is also a fishing port, and an attractive destination for water sports enthusiasts, lovers of seafood, and those seeking both new and traditional destinations within Lima.

Archaeological sites

Photo: Wikimedia

The area’s archaeological areas extend beyond Callao itself, to parts of the neighborhoods Ventanilla and San Martin de Porres. Before it grew into a booming city, the area was a natural desert with seasonal vegetation called ‘lomas’ which covered the summits of the hills.

The first human inhabitants lived here ten thousand years ago, with Chivatero in the District of Ventanilla being the main population center. Middens and heaps of discarded shells remain from this era. These groups occupied the seashore and islands off the coast. Cemeteries have also been found on San Lorenzo Island.

Complejo el Paraiso

Built four thousand years old, the complex consists of various burial mounds or huacas, such as El
Paraiso or Pampa de Los Perros. It is on the municipal boundary between Ventanilla and San Martin de Porres Districts.

Cerro Culebras

Dating from the Lima Culture (200 to 750 A.D.), it covers 35 hectares and contains a polychromatic mural 28 meters long.

Tambo Cerro Respiro

Located on the old Oquendo Estate, it dates back to the Colli period, which spanned until the arrival of the Inca Empire.

 

Important sights to check out

Photo: Wikimedia

The Cathedral

Built by Antonio Dañino in 1833. It was built in the Neoclassical style, with a single nave. The niches on its façade contain statues of St. Simon and St. Jude Thaddeus.

Location: Jr. Constitucion 387 Callao.
Opening times: when Mass is being said.
Cost: free of charge.
More information: visit their website

Virgen del Carmen de la Legua

In the 17th Century, an image of Our Lady of Carmel was sent from Spain to Peru. It was going to be taken to the center of Lima, but the donkey carrying it stopped, according to tradition, in the middle of the trip and refused to move a step further. So a chapel was built to house this image. Years later the current Church was built on the site of the chapel. The image has many devotees in Callao.

Location: Junction of Faucett and Colonial Avenues.
Opening times: when Mass is being said.
Cost: free of charge.
More information: visit their website 

Inmaculada Conception (The Lighthouse Church)

This Church was built at the end of the 19th Century and it has two towers, an unusual feature among Callao’s churches, due to the effects of earthquakes. Its oil paintings and image of Our Lord of Consolation are noteworthy.

Location: Jr. Uruguay 340.
Opening times: when Mass is being said.
Cost: free of charge.
More information: visit their website 

San Juan Bosco

Also built at the end of the 19th Century, this Church has three naves and a fine façade with Italian style.

Location: Calle Garcia Calderon 348.
Opening times: when Mass is being said.
Cost: free of charge.

Casa Ronald

Named after its proprietor Guillermo Ronald, this important English-style building was finished in 1928 and has recently been restored.

Location: Corner of Constitucion and Independencia.
Opening times: free.
Cost: free of charge.
Contact: visit their website 

Public squares

Miguel Grau

The main square of the district. Next to the quay and Paseo Darsena. The meeting point for trips to the Palomino Islands.

Plaza de Armas de la Punta

Site of the municipality and Malecon Pardo. Popular with Callao residents.

Location: Corner of Bolognesi and Medina.

 

Museums

Photo: Ultimate Journeys Peru

Real Filipe

Exhibition of uniforms, arms, and equipment used by the Peruvian Army. The fortress is one of the best examples of military architecture in South America.

Location: Plaza de la Independencia.
Opening times: from Monday to Sunday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Cost: foreigners 12 soles, Peruvian adults: 6 soles and children 2 soles.

Naval

Arms, historic documents, paintings, photographs and many other exhibits on the history of the Peruvian Navy.
The museum has thematic galleries for the Amazon, the Andean plateau and the Antarctic, among others. It is the most comprehensive military museum in the country.

Location: Av. Jorge Chavez 123. Historic Centre.
Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Cost: Adults 3 soles and children 2 soles.
More information: visit their website 

San Jose

This Church was built in Bellavista by Viceroy Manso de Velasco, and served for many years as Callao’s cathedral.

Location: Jr. Bolognesi 440, Bellavista.
Opening times: when Mass is being said.
Cost: free of charge.

 

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Diego Oliver is a Peruvian writer and author whose work can be found in the travel magazine Ultimate Journeys. He loves to focus on Peruvian culture both modern and classic, traveling the country, as well as social responsibility.