Paracas National Reserve is known for its natural beauty and surprising wildlife which includes numerous penguin and sea lion colonies. You can reach it by taking a bus from Lima to Pisco, a trip of about 3-4 hours. (Pisco’s a stop on most buses covering the Lima-Arequipa route, with the most frequent Lima-Ica-Pisco buses being Ormeño.)
The fishing town of San Juan de Marcona is located just 44 miles from Nazca and is mainly known for its beaches and the Bay of San Fernando Reserve, which shelters diverse marine life, including boobies, Humboldt penguins, and sea lions. The most popular beaches are Playa Hermosa and La Lobera.
Each summer, it Marcona celebrates its Tourism Week in order to showcase the area for national and international tourists as well as locals. This year, it will run from Saturday, February 8th through Sunday, February 16th and will offer a series of sporting, cultural, and recreational events. Read on for the program…
Near the city of Ica, one finds a small village oasis known as Huacachina. Although its permanent population is small, it’s become a tiny resort town for nearby families, who visit to go to the restaurants and resorts and paddle-boat around the lagoon, and for foreign tourists who visit to go sandboarding or take dune buggy rides down its surrounding dunes.
You can arrange a combination dune buggy / sandboarding tour from Ica city. The dune buggies are small, but can go quite fast, which combined with the rough terrain can mean some thrilling dune jumping! The cheapest option is to go with a group of other travelers in an 8-person dune buggy. Obviously, the more people in the group, the lower the price is.
Afterwards, one visits the dunes surrounding Huacachina, which are very large- some can take an hour to climb on foot! You get a quick lesson on sandboarding safety and techniques and can practice on smaller dunes before jumping off some of the large ones.
Most dune buggy tours last two to three hours, including an hour of sandboarding. If you can, think about choosing a late-afternoon tour, which starts around 4pm, so that you can still enjoy incredible views but are not struggling under the scorching desert sun. As an added benefit, some drivers will take you to one of the landscape’s natural lookouts to watch the sun set over the desert.
If you’d rather not take a tour, grab a taxi and rent a board off the street for a few soles (probably leaving some kind of guarantee). You can take a taxi from Ica to Huacachina for S/4 to 5 (soles). Be warned, however, that you’ll be missing what most travelers recount as the highlight of the trip to Ica/Huacachina- the dune buggy.
The town itself has little more than the surrounding desert and striking tranquil views to recommend it, because food and product prices are higher than in Ica. Also, there is only one ATM in town, at Huacachinero hostal, and it’s unreliable, so think about just bringing water, snacks, and emergency cash from Ica. Huacachina is best for a short visit, some stunning photo opportunities, and a real “desert oasis” experience; it really isn’t large enough for you to plan more than a quick daytrip.
If you’re anywhere near the south coast of Peru in November (say…Lima, which I know you are), you might want to check out the Semana Turística de Ica 2011 (Ica Tourism Week). The event kicks off on November 12 and continues through to November 20, with a schedule of sufficient diversity to attract a mixed crowd.
Saturday, Nov 12th
- Dancers have competed for the
opportunity to perform for you on the first day of the Marinera Dance Finals at Ica’s Coliseo Cerrado at noon.
- This is also the 1st day of the International Sandboarding Competition Open at the Balneario de Huacachina at 3pm.
- Also, drop by Hotel Real Ica in the evening at 9pm for the Perol Fiesta in honor of the Queens of Marinera at Hotel Real Ica at 9pm.
Sunday, Nov 13th
- Stop by the Regional Museum of Ica at 10am for a FREE visit.
- Enjoy the second and last day of the Marinera Dance Finals at 1pm.
- The second and last day of the International Sandboarding Competition at 3pm, again at the Balneario de Huacachina.
Thursday, Nov 17th
- Sand Buggy Excursion at Huacachina Oasis, be there at 10:00am
Friday, Nov 18th
- This is Parade Day! Find them along
Matias Manzanilla in front of the USI at 10am
- At noon the Food & Wine Festival Opens, as well as the Art Fair and the World’s Largest Pisco Bar. It all takes place on the Ica Fair Grounds.
- At 2pm a Touristic Walk through the city of Ica begins in the Plaza de Armas (Main Square)
- XI National Creative Pisco-Based Cocktail Competition at 5pm at Hotel las Dunas
Saturday, Nov 19th
- Start the day right with the Winery Walk in Southern Winery Zone at the Ica Fair Grounds at 7am.
- The ICA PURO SABOR Food Festival continues, along with the Art Fair and Giant Pisco Bar, all starting around 10-10:30am at the Ica Fair Grounds.
Monday, Nov 20th
- The ICA PURO SABOR Food Festival continues, along with the Giant Pisco Bar at the Ica Fair Grounds, all day long beginning at 10:30am.
- Along with these events, there’ll also be a Peruvian Paso Horse Show
Even as Tourist Week passes, the “Ica Pisco Jubilee Feast” will continue through the 25th in vineyards throughout the region, so make sure to check for special events during your stay.
Pirwa Travel can Get You There!
When not sampling regional dishes at the food festival or watching the unique talents of sandboarders and marinera dancers, you can take advantage of your time in Ica by contracting some of the following tours with Pirwa Travel:
Paracas National Reserve & Ballestas Islands
This is THE tour if you’re passing through Ica. Large sea lion and humboldt penguin colonies numbering in the hundreds- an overwhelming sight that you wouldn´t have guessed you could see in South America!
Visit industrial and artisan vineyards and wineries to learn about Peru’s most prized export- Pisco, a Peruvian grape-based brandy. You’ll not only get an intimate look at the production process, but your visits will be topped off with pisco tastings so that you sample the wares!
Usaca Dune Buggy & Sandboarding Tour
Indulge in the thrill of dune buggy offroading,
stopping at sites thousands of years old: Chauchi Religious Center and Estaqueria, which offers a vital clue to the process of creating the famous Nazca mummies. Not only will you gain an insight into the enigmatic Nazca Civilization, but there’ll be another stop as well, one that will allow you to practice the unique and adrenaline-filled sport of sandboarding!
In Pisco the city’s Tourism Week (actually two weeks) celebrations, meant to promote the main attractions of the province, continue. Throughout the coming week there’ll be art and food fairs, outdoor concerts, parades, Pisco brandy and wine tastings and competitions, Peruvian Paso horse shows, cockfights, and the International Sandboarding Competition.
There’ll be a parade today through the Main Square of Pisco, as it’s the anniversary of the landing of the United Armies of the Andes under the command of General San Martín to Paracas Bay. Four thousand Chilean, Argentinean, and Peruvian troops disembarked and headed to Pisco, where they set up General Headquarters near the main square from which they would launch the first battles of the Wars of Independence, clashing with Royalists throughout the nation over the following years until finally declaring Peru an independent nation.
Pisco is about 4 hours south of Lima by car on the Panamerican Highway, in the Department of Ica. Since it’s such a short trip, travelers usually get to Pisco by bus. by Contact Pirwa Travel if you’d like assistance arranging transport. If you’re staying at one of Pirwa’s Hostels in the Miraflores district of Lima, just stop by the in-house travel desk and get answers to all your travel questions.
While You’re There….
Grab a windbreaker, hat, and sunscreen and make your way to Paracas Bay and grab a motorboat to the Ballestas Islands to view the colonies of diving Humboldt Penguins, lazing fur seals and playful sea lions, and a great variety of sea birds that make their home among the grey, red, and sand-colored rocky outcrops collectively known as the Ballestas, carved into elegant twisting tunnels, arches and caves by water and time. Occasionally dolphins will enter the waters as well, or, with luck, humpback whales. If you’re planning on visiting, remember that Pirwa Travel offers tours of the Ballestas Islands and Paracas Reserves.