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Callao: Lima’s Port To The World

Discover El Callao. Often overlooked for the sake of an outdated reputation, you would be doing yourself a disservice to not give this place a chance. Home to history and culture alike, even the Jorge Chávez International airport (the main airport in Peru) is located in Callao. Thanks to this, it is likely to be the first, and maybe even the last place you see in Peru. Take the time to get to know the streets of Callao a little on your trip.


Located in the constitutional province of Lima, El Callao is a seaside city on the pacific ocean and a vital trade route both into and out of Peru, in fact, it is the biggest seaport in all of Peru, thanks to it being one of the few natural harbors in Peru. The urbanized area of the province is part of the Lima-Callao metropolitan area.

The city also has a long naval history: not just a natural harbor, it was one of the Spanish towns that were vital to the colonial era. As well as tradition, you can enjoy nature in Callao, particularly on the islands on Palomino and San Lorenzo where it is even possible to swim with sea lions. Callao is just 30 minutes drive from Miraflores, on the central west coast of Peru. Don’t miss this historical place on your trip to Peru.

History of Callao

Founded in 1537 by Francisco Pizarro, El Callao soon became the main port for Spanish commerce in Peru. Known as Callao since 1550, the origin of the name is unknown. Some sources point to the similarity of the Portuguese word “calhau”, meaning pebble, and could be a reference to the rocky beaches.

When the exportation of goods produced in Peru, Bolivia, and Argentina happened initially the goods were carried over the Andes mountains by mules or horses arriving in Callao, only to be shipped by boat to Panama, which would then be carried overland again and finally transported to Spain from the port of Panama.

Quick Tip: If travelling to or from Lima Airport, it is strongly recommended to use the luxury Airport Express Lima bus to get to or from your hotel. Safer and cheaper than a taxi with no baggage limit as well as free Wi-Fi and USB chargers onboard, it is ideal for travellers.

After the Battle of Ayacucho (which took place on 9th December 1824, and officially confirmed the independence of Peru from the Spanish and the colonizers), Spain made many futile attempts to recapture its former colonies, and the perfect example of this is the Siege of Callao, which happened in 1826, just two years after Peru’s independence. Despite the Spanish’s best attempts, Peru retained its independence.


Weather in Callao

Like many places in coastal Peru, the weather is very hot in the summer (from January to March), mild with a lot of cloud in the autumn and spring (from September to December), and cold in winter (from April to August) with some drizzle. There are high levels of humidity throughout the year.

Things To Do in Callao

  • Callao Cathedral: This is a must-see in Callao. Constructed in 1833 and renovated in 1876, the temple is one of the oldest constructions in the port. It is also known as the Church of Saint Simon and Saint Judas of Callao, it was said to house the remains of both saints. Get inspired by its neoclassical style, based on Greco-Roman patterns. The temple has only one nave, numerous columns and arches, and a small dome above the high altar.
  • Independent Plaza: A beautiful place to to spend a quiet day relaxing and wandering around. Take your time and enjoy its well-maintained gardens and peaceful atmosphere. One notable sight to see is the large ornamental bronze fountain with mythological themed figures in the middle of the Plaza.


  • Real Felipe Fortress: The structure was built in 1747 and was designed by a french man named Luis Godín. This was one of the most important forts in Peru and played a key role in the colonization, as it was used for protection from pirates and other attackers. It served as a line of defense during the armed conflict with Spain during the battle of the 2nd May 1866. If you’re planning to visit the fortress, make sure that you pay attention to the opening hours which are from Monday to Sunday, 9:00 am – 4:00 pm.
  • Palomino, Cavinzas, San Lorenzo and Frontòn islands: Located opposite La Punta districts (45 minutes by motorboat). the Palomino Islands are formed by two islands: the first is brimming with animal life and it is amazing to visit for you and your family, and you can take plenty of beautiful photos. It is also home to the famous South American Sea Lion, which can weigh as much as 300 kilograms. The second island is a haven for the sick and aging sea lions which is why it is known as “The Hospital”. Cavinzas island is a very important place, as it is a sanctuary for a variety of guano birds such as pelicans and Guyana cormorants. San Lorenzo Island is 8 km long and 2.2 km wide, and it is the largest and highest island of Peru. The local natives associated the island with a female deity called Shina. This is due to the abundance of fish and shellfish that can be found off its coasts. It is also known as the “Island of Mystery” thanks to the multitude of stories telling of pirates and buried treasure.

Getting to Callao

There is plenty of things to see and do in El Callao, as well as being home to Peru’s main airport Jorge Chávez International Airport. Please keep in mind that even though Callao is a beautiful destination to visit and the security has improved hugely, there could be some places where the security is not sufficient, in particular for tourists. You need to take care off your physical well-being, try not to flash expensive products around, and we highly recommend that you take advantage of the Airport Express Lima to visit other places in Lima from Callao. You can take the bus from the airport, and buy your ticket there or online beforehand, and you can select your next stop once on board the bus.


There are many sightseeing opportunities in Callao to enjoy during your visit to Peru. The islands tour is a must on your trip to the port, and no list of things to do in Callao would be complete without trying a little of the local ceviche at the cheap price you can expect in here! Let yourself be captivated by Callao’s culture, tradition and surroundings. It’s a perfect way (and location!) to start or finish your trip to Peru. What are you waiting for? Start planning your travels in Peru!