I stared out to sea from the castle’s ramparts on the cliffs high above the Pacific Ocean. It was noon but the morning’s fog still hugged the coast giving the view a supernatural feel. I imagined the ghostly form of the Chilean warship sunk in 1880, the Covadonga, sitting off the coast in flames. The current had carried a boat laden with fruit, vegetables, and a hidden bomb to the doomed ship. The sailors hauled it aboard and a bomb hidden under the produce exploded. The ship sank immediately taking the lives of 32 members of the crew. The hairs on my arm rose, whether by a breeze or a passing ghost I do not know. Visitors and guides say they can feel the spirits of the lost men haunting the passageways, rooms and parapets of the castle. Others say they’ve seen camp fires on the beach surrounded by sailors in Chilean uniforms only to have both vanished when they approached the beach to investigate. I think they have found a home that replaces the ones to which they can never return.
The Castle of Chancay, Castillo de Chancay, was originally built by Doña Consuelo Amat y Léon to honor her deceased husband Don Rómulo Boggio. She started construction in 1924 and completed the work ten years later. Later, the family deserted the castle and moved to Lima. The castle sat on the cliffs at the edge of the small town of Chancay collecting ghosts and harboring pigeons until Consuelo’s grandson, John Winston Barreto Boggio decided to rebuild and remodel the castle from his grandmother’s original plans.
Today, the work continues. Evidence of repairs and new construction in progress greet the visitor at every turn. The castle has over 250 rooms, 12 terraces, towers, ramparts, stables, restaurants, bars, gift shops, swimming pools and a hotel.
I have to admit that my first impression of the castle when I walked through the gates was dismal. It looked like a cheap imitation of something built in Epcot or Disney World in Florida. Once the actual tour of the building began, that opinion changed. After an introductory talk, they showed my tour group the living quarters of Consuelo and Rómulo. Furniture, art, and photos occupied the rooms giving the visitor a feel for life in the early 1900s. I certainly wouldn’t mind occupying those quarters today with their magnificent views of the ocean. From there they took my group to a big game trophy room where prizes from hunts around the world were on display. Next, we entered rooms that contained a museum of artifacts from the Chancay Culture. Ceramics, mummies, textiles and items used in the daily life of the people were displayed in cases and shelves that took up four rooms.
At the end of the tour, the group was led out onto the walls of the great castle overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Large waves crashed onto the granite cliffs that held the outer walls. Tourists vied for spots along the bulwarks, taking photos, laughing and enjoying the vistas. It was here on one of the promontories built out from the walls that I envisioned the ghost ship. The story told to me by Mariella, another member from my group.
Afterwards I was free to wander through the open areas of the castle, enjoy lunch in one of the restaurants on site, or shop for souvenirs in the tiny tiendas. I did all three. Don’t expect a gourmet meal here. The food, although plentiful, was basic but pricey, something you would expect in a tourist attraction.
The tour that I took out of Lima included this spot and a stop at Eco-Truly Park on the Chakra y Mar beach. A second article will detail that portion of the trip. In my opinion, the Castillo de Chancay is worth the trip to the north of Lima all on its own. The views from the castle walls, the history of the area, and the tour through the residential area make it a must see.