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Paracas Peru and the Ballestas Islands

Also known as "the Poor Man's Galapagos" , the Paracas Peru national park and wildlife preserve, with its amazing abundance of animal and plant life, covers 700,000 acres (280,000 hectares) of fantastic shoreline, mountains and desert, including the fascinating Ballestas Islands.

Pelicans, Ballestas Islands, Paracas, Peru


Paracas is located in the department of Ica in the Peruvian district of Pisco 260 km south of Lima, Peru, and only 15 km. from Pisco.

The name Paracas is somewhat confusing, as it can refer to the town by that name as well as the district. However, it is best known in reference to the Paracas national park and wildlife reserve, one of the biggest marine reserves in the world. The coastline is in the form of a beautiful large bay and its beaches are really nice. Swimming and fishing are good year round.

The small town of Paracas Peru itself is a fishing village as serves mainly as a jumping-off point for the sight-seeing trips along the coast and to the Ballestas Islands. The beach area has the usual strip of restaurants where you can hang out between trips and suck up a ice-cold beer or the famous Pisco sour.


The attractions in this area include the Ballestas Islands and Chincha, where birds, sea lions, Humboldt penguins, and dolphins can be seen.

Having been declared a regional preserve for migratory birds, it is of interest to bird watchers as well as those of us less knowledgeable. You might get a glimpse of pink flamingos among many other species in the Paracas National Reserve, 700,000 acres (280,000 hectares) of fantastic shoreline, mountains and desert

Visitors to Paracas Peru and the Ballestas Islands can enjoy the different ecosystems, the archaeological sites from the Paracas culture, and a spot of historical importance, that being where San Martin landed in his conquests. The beautiful coastline with its large diversity of plant and marine is a definite destination for ecotourists.

But it also has its attractions for the more adventurous among us with adventure sports such as diving, dune buggies and hang-gliding.

Boat Tours:

You can take a boat tours that lasts about 2 hours to the nearby Ballestas Islands. Most tours start at about 8:00 a.m. and are very reasonable with the prices being in the neighborhood of $12.00 US (prices may change). It takes about half an hour to get actually get out to the islands. There are striking cliffs soaring into the sky that have been described as "simply stunning." Keep your eyes peeled for a huge symmetrical drawing or pattern in one of the cliff faces that is reminiscent of the well-known Nazca lines.

Another striking features of the coastline is the area known for its cathedral-like rock formations. Bring a camera!


There is no problem with finding a place to stay in the Paracas Peru area. There is a variety of hotels from basic hostel accommodation for around $10 a night to the better-quality hotels with many extras. These could include the Hilton Doubletree, Hotel Libertador, and Posada del Emancipador.


The climate is typical of the desert with dramatic temperature changes, reaching into the high 80's (30 degrees Celsius) in the daytime and dipping into the 50's (10 degrees Celsius) at night. You want to be sure to have the clothes to cover hot to very cool temperatures.

Paracas itself is located in one of the driest deserts in the world with less than 2mm of rainfall a year. The name Paracas is said to mean "rain of sand," supposedly because of the desert sandstorms, but we don't have any reports of that being a problem at this time.

Paracas Culture

The Paracas Peru National Reserve also includes a museum of the ancient Paracas culture with many fine examples of artistic design from the Paracas Peru culture.
Mantle of the Paracas Culture

Additional Interesting Details:

Some refer to the Islas Ballestas (Ballestas Islands) as the "poor man's Galapagos," since the entrance prices is only pennies on the dollar compared to Galapagos pricing.

The similarity exists due to the amazing amount of wildlife can be found here. Especially abundant on the rocky beaches are the herds of sea lions and flocks of varied and unusual birds as well as the penguins.

In the heyday of the pre-chemical fertilizer age, a lot of money was made by harvesting the nesting areas of the Peruvian coasts, including the islands here, for guano, or bird droppings. This was a huge industry in the past with guano being shipped all over the world.

The rookeries back then had guano that was an incredible 150 feet deep in places, but this of course is no longer the case. However, this is something to prepare yourself mentally for when visiting nesting areas, as the odors can be somewhat overpowering!

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