The Paracas National Reserve is an attractive destination to visit all year round and a relatively short distance from the city of Lima (260 km). In addition to its impressive views of the beaches and cliffs, it is a adventure destination where you can do different sports and excursions: kitesurfing, windsurfing, sandboarding, tubular tours (buggies) ), quad rides, …
Located a few km from the coast of Paracas are the Ballestas Islands. These, like other islands of the Peruvian coast, are exploited since ancient times to obtain guano (high quality fertilizer). They no longer have the splendor of yesteryear, but still house thousands of birds.
Tour to the Ballestas Islands
I started this tour early in the morning (07:45). The agency came to pick me up at my hotel and took me to the Chaco dock, which is where all the boats leave for the Ballestas Islands.
The boat was quite new and was ready to reach a good speed, so the distance to the islands, 18 km, is covered in just 30 minutes.
As we were going away from the coast, we could see the first attraction of the tour: The candelabrum. Located on the side of a hill in the Bay of Paracas National Reserve, and only visible from the sea, it is one of the large geoglyphs of the Ica area (along with the Nazca lines).
It measures almost 200 meters long and its shape can be seen perfectly on the sand of the hill. It is estimated to be 2,500 years old and, despite the studies carried out to date, the meaning it had for the culture of this area has still been discovered.
As we approached the first island, we could already see the diversity of fauna in this area: colonies of Humboldt penguins, pelicans and some sea lions sunbathing …
We continued sailing to the next island and we could see some huge colonies of guano birds: Guanay cormorant, piquero, tendril … These are responsible for generating the guano (excrement) on the surface of the island.
The guano was formerly a very valuable resource, since it is a natural fertilizer of very good quality. It came to be like oil today, coming to contribute a lot to the budget of Peru. While the main islands with guano production are on the coast of Chincha, the Ballestas Islands also stood out in this area.
Nowadays, production has dropped a lot, but it is still maintained and taken care of by the state. Still today you can see the old docks used to load the guano on boats.
Once we finished contemplating the island, we turned around in the direction of Paracas. Although short, I liked the nature tour that we could see so close and the history of the Guano Islands.
Paracas National Reserve
Once we reached the mainland, and almost without rest, we continued with the excursion to the Paracas National Reserve. We ride in the mobility of the agency and go to the reserve, located south of the Paracas peninsula.
The first stop was at the Museo Sitio Julio C. Tello. Here we could see an exhibition about the Paracas culture, this coast and the rest of the Peruvian coast. I was very impressed by the attention how rich its waters were due to the effect of the Humboldt current. More than 10% of the world’s fisheries are in them.
The next stop was in the area of the impressive southern cliffs, from which you could contemplate the best views of the nature reserve. What a contrast of colors!
From here you could also see the famous Cathedral, a rock formation that reminded by its shape the dome and towers of a cathedral. Although it was already badly damaged, as a result of the 2007 Pisco earthquake, it still retained part of its splendor.
Even from this viewpoint, located on the same coast, we could see marine fauna. Several dolphins were swimming pretty close to the coast.
We continue the visit until the next stop, the Red Beach. Denominated in this way by the characteristic color of volcanic rocks.
Here ended the visit of the nature reserve. But before returning to Paracas, we went to the Lagunillas beach, where there were several restaurants to eat something. In addition, those who brought bathing clothes could bathe.
And here we did not just eat the tourists or the locals, in my restaurant there was a flock of huge pelicans waiting for the leftovers from the restaurant.
It also caught my attention, being one of my first trips through Peru, a dog looking “strange”, to say the least. Lying close to the restaurant, I could see that he had practically no hair, only some hair on his head. It is the famous Peruvian dog.
Once we finished lunch, we returned to Paracas. Once there, I took a bus to Lima (back to routine).
These are the activities that gave me time to do in one day in Paracas National Reserve, since I was returning from Nazca, where I was flying over the Nazca lines. However, if you prefer to make others or have more days you can also:
- Do kitesurfing or windsurfing on the beaches of Paracas.
- Go through the desert dunes at full speed in tubular (buggies).
- Ride quad through the desert.
- Sandboard on one of its dunes.
We hope you have enjoyed my experience in Paracas National Reserve and the Ballestas Islands. Also, do not miss other destinations within Peru. Use our travel configurator and prepare your route through this incredible country.
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Kiss and hugs.