Paracas, Peru Travel Guide
When someone on the road hears you are traveling to Huacachina, Peru and says, “Make sure you visit Paracas“… be sure to listen to them.
Paracas is a next to nothing (but sweet and on the Pacific Ocean!) town in the Ica region of Peru with a huge natural attraction – the Paracas National Reserve – the only marine reserve in Peru.
Throw in the Ballestas Islands and you have two top-notch reasons for visiting Paracas. If you are a nature lover in any regard, it is an area not to miss.
To walk around the town will take you all of, umm… 20 minutes. The waterfront is lined with restaurants. On the far end (facing the water, to your left) is an intersecting street – Boulevard El Chaco – leading out to the main drag. This is the tourist strip of plastic table and chairs seafood restaurant stacked next to seafood restaurant and where you want to go for low-cost seafood. It will cost around half of what you will pay for the ocean view a block away and has a more down-to-earth, local feel.
There is a small museum in town – the Paracas History Museum - featuring artifacts (ceramics, masks, jewelry) from Inca and pre-Inca cultures. You can have a guided tour in English or Spanish (entry fee $5 USD). Note: Prices current as of May, 2012
Paracas Reserve Tour – A private minivan tour of the reserve costs around $25 USD and is worth every penny. The tour lasts three hours and includes a visit to the museum (photos and interactive exhibits of the history and wildlife of the area) as well as a stop at the Cathedral Rock viewpoint.
You get a relaxing 1 1/2 hour stop at Lagunilla Harbor for lunch (you need to pay for your meal but get a complimentary drink) and can take a swim if it’s a hot day in the small, cove-shaped beach. Video of Lagunilla Harbor & Pelicans
Ballestas Islands Boat Tour – If it is a cloudy morning you should cancel if possible as you may not be able to see the famous candlebra (chandelier in English) sand etching. it takes around 20 minutes to reach the islands in the speed boat (fun ride, great for kids) and lasts 2 hours.
The cost is $22-25 USD, cheaper to buy your ticket at the pier in the morning but boats fill-up quickly, most purchase the day before. The 3 islands (North, South and the main island) are a part of the 22 chain National Reserve System of Islands.
The four main wildlife species you will see when boating around the islands are: South American Sea Lion, Humboldt Penguin, Guanay Cormorant and the Peruvian Booby. Both the penguins and boobies are on the ICUN Red List of Threatened Species.
And you’ll also see a lot of white on the rocks… June to September there are around 200 workers collecting guano (bird poop) on the main island Ballestas. The natural fertilizer is used in agrigultural areas within Peru and exported to Europe, the U.S. and elsewhere depending on supply. View Photos
Internet in Paracas
Internet is very poor at the two cybers (places with Internet and computers), but a few hotels have WiFi such as Paracas Backpackers House listed below.
A small Internet cafe/bar with new computers and a decent selection of mixed drinks- Los Frailes – opened up in 2012. It’s the best place to make a SKYPE call, opens in the evening 8 p.m. and closes around midnight or later.
Getting to Paracas from Ica and Huacachina
To get to Paracas from Ica you first go to Pisco (1 hour). Then transfer to a small local mini-bus or take a taxi for the additional 20 minute ride to the main square in Paracas. Everything is within a block or two.
From Paracas to Ica and Huacachina you take a local bus or taxi the 20 minutes to Pisco from Paracas. From Pisco take a local bus or taxi another 15 minutes out to the highway (they know where to drop you off). You then bus to Ica, is only 1 hour. From Ica you can take a tuk tuk to Huacachina (5 minutes). Travel Guide to Huacachina
Getting to Paracas from Lima
There is direct service from Lima to Paracas on Cruz del Sur. Cruz del Sur has a small bus terminal on the outskirts of Paracas (5 minute walk to main square) next to Zarcillo Paradise Hospedaje.
For cheaper busses to Lima from Paracas you first go to Pisco (by taxi or local bus), then to a stop on the highway (by taxi or local bus). Not as hard as it sounds, ask for directions at your hotel, is a common route. Travel Guide to Lima
Name: Hotel Paracas Book Now
Address: Avenida Paracas S/N (no number)
Website: www.starwoodhotels.com The only high-end hotel you can walk on the beach to the little town of Paracas from… just 5 minutes. High-end luxury (on the Conde Nast ‘hot list’) on the ocean with two pools, two restaurants, two bars a marina and yachts on-hand for tours in case you didn’t bring your own.
Name: Paracas Backpackers House
Address: Av. Los Libertadores
Website: www.paracasbackpackershouse.com.pe Friendly, family-run hostal with owner – Alberto – who speaks English and loves giving information on tours. Small guest kitchen, WiFi. Have free family-style buffet dinners on Christmas and New Years, makes paying the higher holiday rates worth it and everyone has a good time. Rooms with or without private bath.
Name: Waterfront restaurant
Address: Paracas waterfront
Website: None. Head to the waterfront and walk the two blocks to see what takes your fancy… then order and enjoy the view. If you want to spend a ton of money ($15 USD for a beer kind-of thing), you can eat at the Paracas Hotel even if you are not a guest and have free use of the pool too.
Name: El Capricho
Address: Alan Garcia street
Website: None. Shaded outdoor tables (inside seating as well) with constant ocean breeze Open 12 – 8 p.m. Larger plates than the line of seafood shops across the way, option of french fries instead of only fried Yuca (ask for one or the other), salad with avocado instead of just sliced red onion… their Marisco de Chicharon mixto (fish, octopus, clams lightly battered and fried) for 13 soles ($5.15) is huge. If on a budget you can ask for 10 soles worth and it is a decent size.
Note: The below ‘sandwich & coffee’ stand is open earlier than most – by 8 a.m. – and serves the best coffee in town, and best sandwiches. Yet closes around 5 p.m.
In the evenings a cheap eats stand opens up across from the plaza just down from Backpackers House Hostal. It is open from around 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. and serves 1 sole (40 cents) hamburgers and 4 sole ($1.60 USD) chicken sandwiches stuffed with french fries. Hot dogs too.
Name: “Coffee & Sandwiches” – given name by this travel writer!
Address: Across the street from the pier where boats to Ballestas Islands depart on the waterfront.
Website: None. This place sells out of the best sandwiches (rolls with chicken/pork/beef) quickly, sometimes by 9 a.m. and is the best place to grab a cup of coffee and sit and watch the action at the pier. Opens 7:30 – 8 a.m.
Interactive Map of Paracas
Photographs by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.