Callao, Peru

A few miles from the center of Lima are the airport, cruise ship terminal, Peruvian Navy, seaport and an old Spanish fort. You have just arrived in Callao, nicknamed the “Pearl from the Pacific.”

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1 Plaza Grau in Callao, Peru

If you travel to Lima by plane or ship, you may be unaware you land in El Callao, a city located along the Pacific Coast and less than 10 miles from the historic center of Peru’s capital. It was founded by the Spanish in 1537 as a seaport and is the main base for the Peruvian Navy. In the background is the former Harbour Master headquarters and now the Coast Guard. This is Plaza Grau located in the La Punta District. Some tourists venture to this area for its old colonial mansions, naval history, beaches and outer islands. However most tourists favor its neighbors: Lima and Miraflores.

Plaza Miguel Grau Daniel Nieto, Callao 07021, Peru
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2 Miguel Grau Monument in Callao, Peru

This tall, white column is the Miguel Grau Seminario monument. The Admiral of the Peruvian Navy was an accomplished military leader during the War of the Pacific until he was killed during the Battle of Angamos in 1879. He has been called the “Knight of the Seas” and the “Peruvian of the Millennium.” This tribute is the centerpiece of the Plaza Grau in Callao. To learn more about this national hero, you can explore the Museo Casa Miguel Grau in Lima. There is also another Plaza Grau and monument near the Museum of Art in the capital city.

Plaza Miguel Grau Daniel Nieto, Callao 07021, Peru
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3 Cannons Protruding from Battlements at Real Felipe Fortress in Callao, Peru

When Spaniards began using the port of Callao in 1535 to load their ships with treasures to return to Spain, they attracted buccaneers. The pirating began with Sir Frances Drake in 1578. The Viceroy of Peru, José Antonio Manso de Velasco, commissioned Louis Godin to build a fortress after the previous defense was destroyed in the 1746 earthquake. The Real Felipe, named after King Phillip V of Spain, was finished in 1774. The pentagon-shaped citadel has five bastions with cannons pointing out from the battlements.

Pileta Paz Soldan, Callao 07021, Peru
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4 Front Gate of Real Felipe Fortress in Callao, Peru

Walk through this front gate of the Real Felipe Fortress and into centuries of Peruvian history. Part of the tour includes the Military Historical Museum. Together they exhibit weapons, uniforms, war artifacts and over 300 cannons. You will learn how the Spanish defended against pirates, surrendered to Simón Bolívar’s nationalists in 1836 and tried to reconquer the garrison during the Battle of Callao in 1866. This fort was also a prison and a customs house. The Museo del Ejército Peruano was established in 1984.

Pileta Paz Soldan, Callao 07021, Peru
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5 Independence Square Fountain in Callao, Peru

During the distinguished military career of General-in-Chief Bartolomé Salom, he was a leader during campaigns in the Wars of Independence of Venezuela, Colombia and Peru. One of his many victories was the siege of Real Felipe Fortress show in the background. In January, 1826, he secured the surrender of fort commander José Ramón Rodil and his Spanish troops. In 1866, this water fountain was erected in Independence Square as a tribute to that event.

Pileta Paz Soldan, Callao 07021, Peru
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6 Sunset Over Port Cranes in Callao, Peru

The Port of Callao was first used by Spaniards in the 16th century to load their ships with treasures stolen from the Inca Empire. It remained a Spanish stronghold until 1826. During the 1940s, it had the dubious distinction of being a terminal for cocaine shipments. Since then, it has become Peru’s largest port and handles about 20% of the country’s cargo using these massive container cranes. The 117 acre harbor includes the cruise ship terminal named Cruise Portao.

Calle 2 Callao 07021, Peru
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