Paracas is located in the province of Pisco, in Peru. The name means "sand rain", because in this place the winds carry sand; these winds can reach speeds of 32 km per hour. Due to its proximity to the sea, it is a popular seaside resort and fishing town. The attraction of this resort is its climate, beaches, and beautiful homes that are built here, and Paracas’ protected sites of beauty bring tourism to the area.
Paracas has been declared a regional reserve for migratory birds, and there is a great diversity of marine fauna existing in the area. Visitors to Paracas can see the different ecosystems and archaeological remains of the Paracas culture. From Paracas, you can access the Ballestas Islands (a mini-Galapagos), and the Paracas Natural Reserve. There are also some beautiful beaches to explore, such as Playa Roja, famous for its red sand which is due to rock erosion, and La Mina, where you can camp, swim, and sun bathe.
San Martín - the man who helped to liberate Peru - landed here, and this is the place that inspired him to create the Peruvian flag. The story goes that on arriving in Paracas, he took a nap and fantasised about a flag, the colours of which resembled a bird. When he woke up, he saw the very same birds flying overhead, with their red wings and white chests. This to him represented freedom, and so became the colours to represent Peru and its flag. This bird, commonly known as the Flamingo, can be spotted in the Natural Reserve. Below is our Paracas travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
VISIT THE BALLESTAS ISLANDS – This is the cheaper version of the Galapagos Islands. Take a speedboat to the Ballestas Islands where you will see sea lions, penguins, dolphins, and lots of birds in their natural habitat. Look out for a giant hillside carving of a candle, which some believe has a connection to the Nazca lines, while others think it was for navigational purposes. Another interesting feature is the vast amount of bird droppings, which in the 19th century was Peru’s top export, sold as fertilizer! It’s best to do your boat trip in the early morning, as later winds pick up.
EXPLORE PARACAS NATURAL RESERVE – A vast area of 335,000 hectares - 65% water and 35% mainland and islands - here you will enjoy the beautiful landscapes between the beach and the desert. You can rent a quad bike or a bicycle, and go around visiting the beaches. More visitors come here in the Peruvian summer (December to March), when the beaches will be busier.
TRY KITESURFING – Wind/water sports are very popular here, but Kitesurfing is one of the most popular ones, as there is a U-shaped bay.
VISIT PARACAS MUSEUM – It was very popular to practice head surgeries on the men who had suffered injuries in war. In the museum, you can see some craniums which prove that they had success in this process, there are also more things that show the wonderful culture of Paracas.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
Paracas Natural Reserve.
Seafood is the main ingredient in all of the dishes in this town. Peru's national dish is ceviche, this is something that you MUST try here. Restaurant Paracas (Av. Paracas L10) is located in the rooftop of a fourth-floor building: sample some of the best Peruvian dishes, while at the same time enjoying the amazing view of the ocean.
Paracas is a small town with no crazy parties, but a good place to go is Kokopelli Hostel (Paracas Pisco 128) as it’s the only hostel with a bar on the beach. This is a great place to chill out, grab a beer or a slushy, and enjoy the beautiful sunset.
You can visit Paracas at any time during the year but the best season is in summer time, it runs from December until April. During this season the temperature is 21 degrees Celcius during the night and 30 degrees during the day. The rest of the year the temperature is between 13 degrees Celcius at night and 19 to 22 degrees Celcius during the day. Paracas experiences very little rainfall, but high winds, especially in the afternoons.
The only way to get to Paracas is by bus!
If you’re coming from Lima, it’s 3.5 hours by bus.
If you’re coming from Huacachina or Ica, it’s 1.5 hours.
Most of the hostels/hotels are around the main little plaza (which is close to the pier where the boat departs to the Ballestas Islands). Hotel Residencial Los Frayles (Avenida Paracas Manzana D Lote 9) is a nice place to stay, with private and shared rooms available, and an outdoor pool and decking area where you can relax. Another option is Kokopelli Hostel (Paracas Pisco 128), which is more for young travelers, and has an outdoor bar with hammocks and seating.
Bring your sunglasses and use a lot of sunblock, as the sun is very strong -especially in summer time.
If you take the boat tour to the Ballestas Islands, wear a wind jacket and a hat, there are so many birds flying around you that you can get a surprise from the sky!