When you visit Peru, most people keep Machu Picchu as their top/must-see destination in their travel bucket list. Paracas is one such place that provides a surprise package to the whole family and highly recommend doing it when visiting Peru. Paracas is a small Peruvian coastal town that is around three and half hours south of Lima by car/other road transportation modes. I have been to the Galapagos Islands in 2019 and got to experience wildlife, birds and various sea animals. In Peru, Paracas is called as the ‘Poor Man’s Galapagos’, so for those who have not been to Ecuador’s Galapagos, it will be a visual treat to watch various wildlife in Ballestas Islands in Paracas.
Things to do in Paracas
BALLESTAS ISLAND TOUR
Ballestas is one of the top attractions in Paracas and a must-see place. The rocky formations in the island that is part of the Paracas National reserve provides the shelter to thousands of birds like the blue footed boobies, swarms of cormorants, sea lions and the beautiful penguins. If you are a photographer, this place is visually appealing to capture different bird species. Ballestas Island coverage is only 2 hour boat trip and gives you one of the best and quick wildlife watching experience. We were lucky to see some of the dolphins jumping around while the boat was getting ready to be headed towards the island. We took the morning departure boat around 9 AM as we had to leave Lima the same day. If you plan to stay in Paracas, you can book your boat tours accordingly and plan for other activities.
The boats are very comfortable, clean and lifejackets are provided that is mandatory for everyone to put it on. On our first stop, we got to see the prehistoric geoglyph ‘The Candelabra’ that is pretty huge and stands greater than 500 feet tall and very visible from the boat. We did not do the Nazca Lines, so got to experience atleast one geoglyph i Paracas. After watching the Candelabra, natural rock formations was a beautiful sight to watch with thousands of birds sitting at one spot and some flying around, baby penguins walking around and sleeping sea lions relaxing with their families. Throughout the 2 hour period, you will be seated in the boat and the driver will maneuver the boat at majority of the places where you can watch the wildlife. Watch the video from Peru video Collections page.
Huacachina is a desert oasis located close to the city of Ica which is 4 hours south of Lima. Since we went as a part of a travel package, our group had a dedicated vehicle arranged all the way from Lima. There are other modes of transportation available like local bus, private vehicles etc. It’s a pretty long drive and I would not recommend to group multiple activities on the same day. We did the Huacachina attraction alone and headed towards Paracas (~1 hr from Ica) to stay overnight and continued with Ballestas the next day.
Huacachina is a tiny village and at its center are the green waters of the Huacachina Lagoon, surrounded by palm trees. We got to capture the sunset in the desert and the lagoon’s shores bring out beautiful colors that you can leverage for your evening photo shots. Dune buggies run across the high, rolling sand dunes surrounding the village and is one of the must-do activity at Huacachina. Sandboarding is another activity that most people do here at the desert.
We had done ATV rides in the US and Mexico on our own but the landscape and area is so huge in Huacachina that makes it tough for you to drive on your own. You need experienced drivers and the local guides take the travelers on a tour of these dunes on an incredibly powerful dune buggies, flying over large humps of a never-ending desert of sand. The ride itself is such a thrilling, high adrenaline rush packed one, and very safe to ride. The local drivers get the boards in the dune buggies for the sandboarding activities. You can spend around 2-3 hours at the Huacachina desert, plenty of pictures and video options, so plan your time accordingly. Watch the video from Peru video Collections page.
PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE
The Paracas National Reserve is in the Pisco province of the Ica region of Peru. It’s more of a scenic drive along the pacific ocean and the dirt roads crisscross the Paracas Peninsula, leading to lookout points over the sea and remote beaches. There are walking trails along the way to explore limited areas on foot. We had private vehicle for the group, so got to enjoy most of the scenic routes and one or two stop points to capture some beautiful pictures of the peninsula. There are ATV tours available where people were riding the ATVs along the dirt roads and this is an alternate option if you are interested to explore on your own. We returned half way after touching some of the important scenic routes as we had to head back to Lima that evening. It’s a 2 hour scenic drive along the Paracas National Reserve.