When the hustle and bustle of Lima’s chaotic, crowded, and cough-generating streets have you feeling like you need a break, there is reprieve just a few minutes away in La Punta. If you visit the smallest of the six districts that make up the Constitutional Province of Callao, you’ll soon see why, for most visitors, it is by far the most memorable.
Usually La Punta is a place for summertime fun, where you can bare some skin and escape from the noise and pollution of the city while relaxing on the beach, having a picnic or celebrating in an open-air nightclub. During the winter months, there is also a lot to do.
The area was first settled by fisherman who lived side by side with the Spanish colonists until the middle of the 19th century when Italian immigrants came to the region. They organized the small town as we know it today and their more than 100 mansions are still visible and offer a great walking tour around Plaza Galvez.
One site that’s easily accessible from La Punta is the Real Felipe Fortress, the most prominent historical landmark in Callao. It was built during colonial times to defend Spain’s most important port in the Americas against pirates. Today the fortress is a tourist attraction that is run by Peru’s Army.
You can take a two-hour tour of the fortress, which includes a Spanish-speaking guide. The tour is worth your time because it takes you through the museum of military history and includes a tour of the watchtowers and a visit to the dungeons, where they used to hold the most dangerous pirates.
After seeing the fortress you should head back up to the plaza toward the end of the boulevard. From there you’ll see a number of beaches and ceviche restaurants.
One of the many good spot that offers delicious food at affordable prices and a stunning view of the local port is Cabos Restaurante del Puerto. They have an excellent selection of wines to accompany their fish and seafood.
Though it’s currently winter in Lima, you can still head down to Cantolao, the most famous beach in La Punta. It’s known for its pebbled shore and cool water. From there you can ask about taking a tour of the local islands.
La Punta district gets its name for its distinct geographical feature, being a peninsula that’s surrounded by the Pacific Ocean to the north, south and west. This means there are plenty of water activities to do off the shore of La Punta.
The best afternoon or morning tours take you to the Islas Palominos just off the coast. These two uninhabited rocky islands stand out from the shoreline and can be seen from the cliffs Miraflores and the beaches of Barranco and Chorrillos. The large island is called San Lorenzo and the small one is known as El Frontón.
During the winter months when the fog sets over most of the shore, this trip gets an extra level of excitement and mystery. You’ll pass around the sailing boats and yachts from the local yacht clubs before passing the tip of the peninsula and heading out towards the islands. La Punta is known for its water sports and it is common to see groups of people kayaking, windsurfing, and rowing throughout the day.
The first island you’ll pass is El Frontón, which was originally meant to hold terrorist prisoners from the Shining Path days. In the late 1980s this island turned into a battleground when the guerillas successfully took over the prison and took the guards hostage.
After passing El Frontón, you’ll continue around the back of the islands and approach San Lorenzo. The large island has become a refuge of nature with colonies of 60,000 sea lions calling it home. The mammoth beasts don’t concern themselves with the boats and an adventurous captain will be able to go right up to the rocks without them taking any notice of it.
Though the stench of the sea lions is strong and the males often fight one another for the best spot to court the ladies, a visit to San Lorenzo is a great experience to see wild creatures up close.
San Lorenzo is also the best spot near the city to see the playful Humboldt penguins.
Though La Punta is traditionally a place to visit in the summer months when the temperature is hottest and the sun is out, this unique former fishing village offers a perfect Saturday or Sunday excursion in the winter months.
Source and redaction: Diego M. Ortiz of Peru this week