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Peru: Paracas, Ica and Nazca

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The Paracas Nature Reserve on a rocky desert peninsula and the guano-rich Ballestas Islands just off the Pacific coast, a short drive from Lima, are often visited en route to the Nazca Lines and Arequipa, but for wildlife lovers they are a real treat in their own right. Sealions, Humboldt penguins, pelicans, terns, cormorants and flamingoes thrive here, and the marine life is equally prolific, with dolphins, sharks and whales.

Between Paracas and Nazca, the town of Ica is the centre of Peru's pisco industry and viticulture. It sits in a fertile valley close to towering sand dunes, 50km from the sea. There's an interesting museum but the main reason for a visit is to discover the bodegas, or wineries, one or two if which offer delightful accommodation. A few km from the town is an oasis with a palm-fringed lagoon at the summer resort Huacachina.

The Nazca Lines, huge geometric designs and figures etched into a bleak, barren plain inland from the coast (3.5-4 hrs’ drive from Paracas and 7 from Lima), were carved around 2,000 years ago, possibly as an astronomical calendar. Close to Paracas is the port Pisco, from which you can take a light aircraft flight over the Nazca Lines. 

Our holidays to Paracas, Ica and Nazca

View all holidays
Self Drive

Peru: Drive across the Andes

Private journey

16 days from £2,980pp

shrimps

A Taste of Peru

Private journey

12 days from £3,380pp

breakfast onboard Silversea cruise

Culinary cruise along the Humboldt Current - 23 Oct 2017

Private journey

18 days from £5,771pp

Things to do in Paracas, Ica and Nazca

Desert etchings

Fly over the Nazca Lines

Boat Trip to the Ballestas Islands

Boat trip to the Ballestas Islands


Our insider tips for Paracas, Ica and Nazca

Isabelle

Isabelle Mazille

Hearing the cacophony of mournful cries of the sealions and thousands of birds echoing round the wind-eroded arches of the Ballestas Islands.
Paul

Paul Winrow-Giffin

2-3,000 years ago the desert supported the Paracas Necropolis people, the culture is celebrated in the local museum with textiles and distorted mummies.

Ben Line

Ben Line

Getting a bird’s eye view of the mysterious Nazca Lines carved in the desert close to the town. Fly over them in a light aircraft from Pisco, close to Paracas.

Adam Calladine

Adam Calladine

Relax in the sun on this desert coast –there are a number of modern, well appointed new hotels and resorts.

What our experts say

En route to the Ballestas Islands you'll see El Candelabro - a petroglyph carved in the rock measuring 10m x 100m, said to represent a San Pedro cactus whose hallucinogenic properties are used by shamans throughout Peru. Its origin is unknown but theories abound, from aliens to the pre-Columbian Nasca culture or pirates. The wildlife we saw at the islands was impressive - huge quantities of birds, many migratory, sea-lions, penguins, boobies and huge cormorant colonies.
Ben Line

Ben Line

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