From the world-famous Nazca Lines to Huacachina Oasis, the deserts of southern Peru hide valuable historical and natural treasures which attract ever more visitors each year. The southern coast is ideal for many extreme sports as well, including sandboarding, sandbuggying, wind- and kite-surfing. South of Lima, one finds a touristic route known as the Southern Circuit, which includes Paracas, Ica and Nazca.
The circuit begins in the city of Paracas, only 2250 kilometers south of Lima, where the desert and sea join in a grand landscape. The beaches, bordered by beautiful cliffs, are full of life. The area acts as a habitat for thousands of birds, many of them endemic species.
Paracas Bay, which forms part of the buffer zone for the Paracas National Reserve, is an ideal place to practice watersports such as wind- and kite-surfing. The strong winds, which blows in from the desert in the afternoons, make it an amenable spot for such activities. Those with a love of extreme sports and a passion for grandiose landscapes will find both in Paracas! Cyclists also gather here, to test their strength among very strenuous paths which wind among the dunes.
The most popular excursion inside the Paracas National Reserve
A paradise for surfers is San Gallán Island, which is popular with local surfers thanks to a fun right waves with large tubular sections. However, one needs to request permission in advance from Sernanp (the government agency which manages protected national areas) in order to surf in this spot.
Continuing on in a southern direction, one reaches central Ica, known for its sun and grapevines. In the outskirts of the city one finds the country’s best bodegas, the home of the country’s most famous wine and pisco brands.
As well as being an important stop for those who realize the Pisco Route, Ica boasts the idyllic Huacachina Oasis, just 5km from the city center. It has comfortable hotels, and from there one can arrange excursions in sandbuggies, which can hit the dunes and jump at high speeds, or rent a sandboard.
Finally, just 2 hours from Ica, one finds famed Nazca Lines, the enormous geoglyphs which span more than 50 miles of the desert floor and represent animals, humans, plants, and geometric figures. Their monumental scale and enduring mystery makes a flight over the Nazca Lines de rigueur for travelers visiting Peru.
Close to the Nazca Lines we find other notable works of the same culture: the engineering feat that is the Cantalloc Aqueducts, a series of subterranean canals and reservoirs with unique spiral designs, and the Cahuachi pyramids and plazas, which are all that is left of the erstwhile center of the Nazca culture. We addressed both of these sites in our post about the overlooked wonders of Nazca.