A 3-day action-packed trip from Lima to the natural wonders of Paracas & the world-famous Nazca Lines.
Includes sand-buggying tour, visit to Paracas Reserve & Ballestas Islands, and flight over Nazca Lines
2018 price from £459 / $US 649 p/p based on 3* hotel in Paracas, with transport from/to Lima, & excursions.
The sleepy fishing village of Paracas has been transformed in recent years into a coastal resort with a surprising number of international-standard hotels. For many Peruvian visitors, it offers sun and sand at only a few hours by car from Lima; but the area has a surprisingly wide variety of unique attractions.
Paracas is the gateway to the Paracas National Reserve, an eclectic sanctuary that includes beaches and bays, coastal mountains and sun-baked desert, as well as some 100 small archaeological sites, belonging to the pre-Columbian Paracas culture.
About two-thirds of the protected land is actually offshore, the only Peruvian park to have both marine and terrestrial elements, and the itinerary includes visits by vehicle and by boat, to make the most of this.
The birdlife is astounding: thousands of grebes, boobies, terns, petrels, gulls and other seabirds; flights of pelicans soaring over the beach; flamingos, egrets and herons stepping gingerly through salty lagoons behind the shore; and even strange little feathery creatures like the burrowing owl.
South American fur seals and sea lions monopolize many of the shoreline rocks and islands, but especially the Mirador de Lobos. Sea otters, desert foxes and Humboldt penguins are also part of the Paracas wildlife mosaic.
Moving inland, there are magnificent sand dunes, surrounding the oasis of Huacachina, that are an ideal location for an exhilarating visit by sand buggy.
And last, but not least, the mysterious Nazca Lines can be viewed in a light aeroplane, taking off from the nearby Pisco airport.
We have fitted all these attractions into an intense three-day visit, that can be taken as a side tour from Lima, or on the way down the coast to Arequipa and beyond.
Day 1: Lima - Paracas; Tour of Paracas Reserve
We pick you up early from your Lima accommodation, in order to make an early departure from Lima, travelling south down the iconic PanAmerican Highway, passing the little-known Inca ruins of Pachacamac on the way. The urban sprawl soon gives way to desert, as the road hugs the Pacific coast for much of the journey.
We arrive in Paracas around midday, and after settling in to our beach-side accommodation, and having some lunch (not included), we will set off on a half-day exploration of the Natural Reserve of the Paracas Peninsula, for the afternoon.
The Paracas Peninsula is striking, combining desolate desert with bold seascapes. A large amount of wildlife is found in the area – sea lions, penguins, turtles and a wide variety of birds.
The evening is at your leisure. You can choose whether to relax in your hotel or explore the bay area, which has a selection of waterfront restaurants (with great seafood) and bars.
Day 2: Paracas: Ballestas Islands, Nazca Lines & Sand-Buggying (Breakfast)
Today is full of variety and interest. First, after breakfast, we take a boat cruise from Paracas' small port to the Ballestas Islands, where we can see marine mammals and birdlife up close, and in huge numbers. We also take a look at some ancient etchings in the coastal cliffs, including the mysterious Candelabra .
Once back on shore, we drive to Pisco aerodrome in order to take a 90-minute flight in a light aircraft over the Nazca Lines, to be able to see these mysterious shapes in all their enigmatic majesty. The giant figures include elongated triangles, animals such as a hummingbird, a monkey, a spider and a condor ... and even an alien-looking owl man!
Despite 50 years of study, there is still no proven theory as to the origin and purpose of the Nazca Lines. Many people have studied the lines - most famously, Maria Reiche, a German mathematician, who spent the greater part of her life doing research in Nazca. What is known is that the Lines were begun around 400 B.C and work continued on them for another thousand years.
After the overflight, we return you to Paracas, where you have time to relax and have lunch.
Then, in the late afternoon, we take you to the desert surrounding Ica and Huacachina, to take part in a sand buggying tour. The dunes stretch as far as the eye can see, and some are close to 100 m (328 ft) in height. Driving over them in a powerful buggy is not only exhilarating, but also a great way to experience the area. There is also the chance to try your hand at sand boarding, with all equipment provided and no experience necessary.
NB. The dune buggies are built for safety, and all have roll cages, seat belts and bucket seating.
Following the ride in the buggy, we take you back to your Paracas hotel for the evening. There is the option of having a gourmet picnic dinner in the desert (at an additional cost).
Day 3: Paracas - Lima (Breakfast)
This morning, after breakfast, we head back to Lima, where we transfer you to the airport or your hotel.
Alternatively, you may like to continue south to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon.
NB. Nazca (also spelt 'Nasca') is a charismatic little town, that can get quite lively at night, and has many more vestiges of the Nazca culture to see, aside from the headline-grabbing Lines:
- Chauchilla Cemetery: a chance to see how the Nazca culture mummified their dead.
- Maria Reiche Planetarium: has evening showings, every day, that explain more about the Nazca Lines and their relationship with astronomy, as espoused by Maria Reiche.
- Ceremonial City of Cahuachi: a huge, ancient pilgrimage centre 28 km (17 miles) southwest of modern Nazca containing some 34 pyramids scattered over 24 sq km (9.5 sq miles).
- Cantalloc: an extensive series of subterranean aqueducts (puquios in Quechua) used to irrigate this desert region.
- Antonini Archaeological Museum: informative museum, with a collection of Nazca pottery and textiles.
- Cerro Blanco: a whitish mountain which, at 2,078 m (6,847 feet), is labelled the world’s largest sand dune.
If you would like to visit some or all of the above, let us know, and we can arrange.