Peru is an extremely diverse country with breathtaking sceneries and spectacular archaeological sites left to us by many different ancient cultures inhabiting the country for thousands of years. But also the more recent history like the Peruvian colonial and republican past bequeathed some truly amazing legacies. One of these is the Fortress Real Felipe in Callao, built 250 years ago to protect the influential capital Lima, its port in Callao and the Peruvian coast.
The port of Callao was Lima’s gateway to the world
During colonial times Lima not only was the capital of Peru, but as well the political, economic and religious center of all Spanish colonies in South American. By law everything coming to the colonies from abroad or leaving from them had to be shipped to / from Lima’s port in Callao. So, all goods, merchandise and mining riches had to pass through Callao and therefore Lima making the Peruvian capital even richer and more influential. This wealth of course drew many dubious characters, pirates and buccaneers to the Peruvian coast threatening the city.
Real Felipe Fortress – built to protect the port of Callao and colonial Lima
When in 1746 a devastating earthquake with following tsunami laid the entire region in ashes and reduced among many other buildings Lima’s city walls into rubble, the Spanish viceroyalty decided the Peruvian capital and its harbor needs more effective protection. Less than 30 years later, the largest and most impressive fortress the Spaniards had ever built overseas was finished on the shore of the Pacific Ocean in Callao named Fortress Real Felipe after Felipe V of Spain.
After Peru’s independence, they used the fort as prison and custom house
It might seem ironic that only half a century later the Real Felipe Fortress that was built to defend the riches and status of the Spanish crown in Peru, helped to fend off the Spanish fleet trying to reconquer the strategic important port of Callao during the struggle for the Peruvian independence. After independence, the Real Felipe Fort was repurposed as a political prison; later, with a brief interruption during the War of the Pacific, it was used as a custom house until 1955.
Today Real Felipe Fortress houses an astonishing military history museum
Since 1984 the Fortress Real Felipe in Callao accommodates an astonishing military history museum run by the Peruvian Army. As the fort is still an active army post, a guided tour is obligatory. The tour leads across the extensive grounds and inside several buildings and hallways full of Peru’s colonial and early republican history showcasing many military objects, tanks, canons, uniforms, antiques and other weapons of Peruvian soldiers from all epochs in excellent condition. And as it should be, Real Felipe has of course its own ghosts. A highlight of the tour surely is walking over the little drawbridge into one tower, see and be in the narrow corridors where prisoners spend years of their lives, and then walk up to the roof where an absolutely breathtaking view over the bay awaits.
Visitor Information for the Fortress Real Felipe
Opening hours: daily including public holidays from 09.00 am to 04.00 pm
Guided tours: usually start every 30 to 45 minutes, are available in Spanish and English and take approx. 2 hours. Bigger groups are asked to make an appointment under 429-0532 or 465-8394
Additional opening hours and tours: every Friday or Saturday night from 07.30 pm to 10.30 pm Real Felipe offers mysterious night tours with a paranormal theme. A reservation is necessary to attend. Please call 465-8394 or write to firstname.lastname@example.org
Entrance fee: foreign nationals S/. 15, local adults S/. 10, children S/. 5 (up to 12 years of age)
General advice: Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. The sun is unforgiving, especially in the summer months, so please take a hat or cap, sun cream and some water with you. Visitors may take photos only. If you are taking part in the night tour, don’t forget your flashlight.