Callao is the largest slum of Lima, the most dangerous area. La Punta is a tiny peninsula of wealthy homes and yacht clubs. To get in or out, you have to pass through Callao proper. I found it safe to travel the main avenues during the day, and it’s worth the trip.
My brother and I tried to go to La Punta de Callao in 2009. We had a great time but we never entered La Punta. The taxis drop you off at Plaza Grau by the Peruvian Coast Guard building, because vehicle entrance to La Punta costs 20 soles. There’s a dock right there where we took a boat tour, which showed us the port and the La Punta mansions from the water, and we thought that was it. We went for a ceviche.
After eating we explored. I was in awe at the architecture. The buildings haven’t seen upkeep in centuries. Some seem to be falling down. It’s like looking at Detroit ruin porn, but American decay photo essays are typically 20th century buildings. Old Callao decay are colonial buildings. It’s surreal. I kept walking, kept looking, until locals warned us not to stray further. It’s dangerous. We didn’t see any sketchy elements, but we heeded their advice.
This week I took wifey and we actually found La Punta. I learned that Plaza Grau and the deteriorated blocks were outside the safe, tourist area. You have to pass Plaza Grau toward the Royal Felipe Fortress (built to defend Lima from pirates) and continue down Gamarra to enter Chucuito, a neighborhood originally settled by Italian-Peruvians that buffers old Callao from La Punta. You’ll pass the Peruvian Navy lighthouse and SUNAT before reaching Plaza Galvez, after which starts the wealth. Pristine streets, republican mansions, a small boating community. This is the touristic La Punta de Callao. At the end of the peninsula is the Peruvian Naval Academy and Plaza San Martin, which features a mirador.
For great Callao history see these articles from EnPeruBlog:
Wifey and I received the same warning intensity in the port area during my second visit. Three different Peruvians warned us back toward Plaza Grau because of the “rateros” – thieves. Callao residents clearly try to protect tourism and advise tourists to stay in La Punta, and not to explore old Callao.
Unfortunately those old blocks were more interesting. Clean, upscale areas are common. But I haven’t seen deteriorated colonial architecture like Callao anywhere in the world.
On my first visit my brother and I received two warnings. With my wife we received three. So in two visits to the Callao’s port area I received five total warnings, an average of 2.5 per visit, each visit lasting about an hour.