For a desert, the coastal region of Ica in Peru certainly has a lot to offer, including Humboldt penguin colonies, mummies, pyramid temples, the Nazca Lines, sandboarding around Huacachina Oasis, pisco distilleries, and Afro-Peruvian criollo music and food. Learn which activities in the Ica Region are most popular, how to get there, and what traditional dishes to eat while you’re there…
The cities of Ica and Nazca are found south of Lima, along Peru’s desert coast. Not far outside of Ica, one finds Huacachina Lagoon, surrounded by some of the largest sand dunes in the world. (You can take a taxi there from Ica for about S/5 Peruvian soles).
Its massive sand dunes are attractive to travelers who careen along them in 4-wheel-drive sand buggies or try sandboarding, which is thought to date back to the ancient Egyptians. Sandboarding is similar to snowboarding or surfing, except that it takes place on sand dunes rather than snow-covered mountains or waves. (The main differences in equipment are that sandboards are generally harder than snowboards, waxed to increase speed on the sand, and may or may not have straps for your feet.) It’s a fun sport that can be practiced year-round. Rather than a lift, sandboarders get to the top of the sand dunes by walking or riding a dune buggy.
Though best known for the Nazca Lines, the Nazca civilization holds much more intrigue and many more sights worth seeing than you might imagine. As the empire rose from a series of isolated villages to a regional power, only to subsequently disappear, it left behind many other traces besides the lines. Of note are the pyramids of the Cahuachi pilgrimage site, which was mysteriously abandoned, the spiral aqueducts of Cantayo, the thousand-year old mummies of the desert and their head jars, and the colorful, surrealist ceramics and weavings.
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…
Best Time to See: The Andes
The vast Andean mountain range includes fertile valleys marked by patchwork subsistence farming, traditional adobe cities with cobblestone streets and colorfully dressed locals, and the Incan ruins of fortresses, temples, and terracing. The glacial peaks provide a scenic challenge to the most intrepid travelers, and the jungle brow (high-altitude jungle) and cloud forests help make the Andes the region housing the most microclimates in Peru. Travelers visit to explore the former imperial capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco, discover for themselves the iconic Machu Picchu Archeological Complex, and practice extreme sports along the mountainsides and river rapids.
The weather is extraordinarly varied, meaning that cold mornings and frigid nights can combine with sunny, very hot afternoons. During the rainy season, it can rain everyday of your stay, but generally in short bursts. Bring layers that will allow you to adjust to the temperature shifts, and don’t forget the sunblock even during the rainy season- the sun scorches at higher altitudes.
Dry Season: May to October
Wet Season: November to April
Uncomfortable for hiking (muddy paths, potential landslides)
Unexpected dangers & delays (flooded roads, derailed train tracks)
New Years in Cusco
Fiestas Patrias Independence Days throughout Peru (April)
What to do: explore the Sacred Valley of the Incas, raft the Apurimac River rapids, hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, watch a traditional weaving demonstration, visit Sacsayhuaman Fortress, tour the former imperial capital of the Incas
Best Time to See: Desert Coast
Peru’s arid Pacific coast is home to the ancient cities of Chan Chan and Sipán, the Paracas Reserve, and the Nazca Lines. While Nazca, Ica, and Paracas are hot and sunny throughout the year, epitomizing general conceptions of desert climes, you’ll notice some anomalies: Lima is very humid due to coastal fog and breezes from the Pacific, which regulate the city’s temperature so that it’s never too hot or too cold. Meanwhile, the cooling effects of the Humboldt current means you can see penguins off of the coast of Paracas, in the Ballestas Islands.
At least in Lima, one can categorize two seasons, summer and winter, with May and November acting as transitional months with dramatic temperature fluctuations:
Summer: December to April
Winter: June to October
Averaging 59°C in Lima
Mainly gray skies in Lima
Omnipresent coastal fog known as Garúain Lima
Sandstorms in Paracas
Ica & Nazca dry and sunny throughout year
Beaches along the north still sunny
Low Tourist Season- Less Crowding
Low Tourist Season- More Bargains
Better waves for surfing
Bullfighting season in Lima
Lord of Miracles Festival in Lima (Oct/Nov)
St Rose of Lima Festival in Lima
What to do: Hike one of the world’s deepest canyons, fly over the Nazca Lines, Sandboard giant sand dunes near Huacachina Oasis, surf in Mancora, watch the penguins and sea lions of the Ballestas Islands, tackle the glacial peaks of Chachani, bike down Misti Volcano
Best Time to See: The Amazon
The Amazon Rainforest houses an astounding diversity of exotic plants and animals, as well as tribes indigenous to the area, who still uphold their timeless traditions in the face of an ever-encroaching modernity. Although much of this treasure is forbidden to access in order to protect its pristine nature and delicate ecosystems, there is a border area where tourism and scientific study are permitted. (Between the two zones, there’s a buffer zone to protect the refuge area.) Along the rivers and the jungle paths of the outer zone, one can find commune with capybara, sloths, monkeys, and more.
In the rainforest, high heat, frequent rains and 85% humidity come with the terrain. Although a wet season and dry season is frequently referenced, there isn’t much actual variation in rainfall throughout the year. The river water levels, however, can vary up to 40 feet throughout the year, mainly due to runoff from snow melting along the eastern slopes of the Andes.
Higher temperatures (averaging 98 F)
More trails & paths accessible
Migratory birds in flight
Less exubuerant vegetation
Riverways not navigable
More animals gather riverside (less dispersal due to loss of terrestrial water pools)
San Juan Festival (end of June)
What to do: visit an indigenous tribal community to learn about their way of life, swim with pink dolphins, visit a macaw clay lick, fish for piranha, visit monkey island, go on night canoe trip to see glowing cayman eyes, watch the sun set over the Amazon River, visit traditional river house