Hidden Lima: Callao’s La Punta

April 14th, 2011

By Danielle Lane

Summers in the Lima metropolitan area are the highlight of social life for residents and tourists alike. In a city covered in a layer of sea fog nine months of the year, summer offers an opportunity to bare shoulders, escape the noise and pollution of the city, relax outdoors, enjoy picnics and frequent beach homes and celebrate in open-air night clubs. Those that seek a quiet and almost regal environment head north to the city of Callao, to an area called La Punta.

Originally settled by Italian Peruvians, the district of La Punta was built by the aristocracy of Lima and Callao. Today, the peninsula is occupied by mostly upper-middle class residents, with a clean and orderly calm that feels surreal after passing through the otherwise chaotic Callao.

After two centuries, La Punta is still a destination for those in search of a tranquil respite from the rest of the Lima-Callao conurbation. The peacefulness here is more like that of a small town than the district of an enormous major metropolitan area.

Due to the heritage of its residents, it is to no surprise that you can find some distinctly Italian architecture alongside the ultra modern mansions of the nouveau riche and 19th century Spanish manors. Many of these beautiful homes line the three most famous high-end beaches, Cantolao, Malecon and La Arenilla, all of which offer clear views of the islands of San Lorenzo and El Frontón just off the coast.

Perhaps fittingly, given its regal feel, La Punta is a popular destination for yacht owners and boaters. For those off more modest means it is easy enough to hire a boat for a tour of the coastal islands, home to huge colonies of sea lions, dolphins and other marine life.

There are also four major regatta clubs that launch from La Punta: Club Regattas Union, Club Universitario de Regattas, Canottieri Italia and Club de Regattas Lima. Most were founded in the last quarter of the 1800s as sporting clubs for the elite and today, the clubs still serve as private members clubs. However the clubs are not as exclusive as they sound and it is possible with the appropriate attire to enjoy their restaurants, and use the beaches and facilities for a fee.

There are also a number of public beaches along the peninsula and a small wildlife reserve along the southern edge. For lunch look no further than one of the several cevicherias that line the water’s edge.

Combis head to La Punta along several main routes through Lima, although if you’re inclined to the horror stories of Callao’s wild streets, you might feel more comfortable taking a taxi.

This is a guest article sponsored by Casa Andina, a leading chain of Peru hotels with a wide collection of Lima hotels.

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