Ica, Paracas & Nazca
Introduction to Ica, Paracas & Nazca
Situated on Peru’s Pacific arid desert coastline, this region boasts an interesting mix of ancient local culture, spectacular natural beauty and adventure sports that you’ll be sure to find captivating! Beware though, there is no way you can escape the sand!
The first settlers arrived in the area over 10,000 years ago and from these ancestors the Nazca, Ica and Paracas cultures were born. The region’s ancient people wove ornate robes, developed elaborate ceramic skills, mummified their dead and drew lines and gigantic figures in the desert floor. General San Martín landed in this area to fight the Peruvian War of Independence and directed military operations against the Spanish forces from the town of Pisco.
Today, Ica makes a good stop off on a coastal ride towards Arequipa – and there’s a lot to do here! Chill out at a desert oasis, a great place to relax for a few days and meet fellow travelers, or to get have an adrenaline-pumping adventure on a desert buggy ride – it is as exhilarating as it sounds!
A couple of hours towards the coast you can jump into a boat and visit Peru’s version of the Galapagos Islands (although on a much smaller scale). Hundreds of sea lions gather around you and you’ll have the opportunity to see penguins and maybe even dolphins as literally thousands of birds fly above you.
Be sure to fit in a visit to the Nazca Lines, two and a half hours down the coast on the way to Arequipa. We are sure you’ll agree that their size is simply mind blowing! Top it all off with a taste of the wide range of locally produced wine and pisco from the surrounding vineyards.
What not to miss in Ica, Paracas & Nazca
Ica – Huacachina Oasis
Sand, sand and more sand! The desert oasis of Huacachina, near Ica, is a relaxing spot to hang out and rest for a few days. You can explore the dunes with buggy rides as you go speeding up the sand dunes on a thrilling rollercoaster ride before enjoying a spectacular desert sunset.
Ica – Dune Buggy Rides
Explore Ica’s mighty dunes with a thrilling dune buggy ride up, down, over and across the towering desert sand dunes. Take a moment to enjoy the mesmerizing desert sunset before continuing your exhilarating dune buggy ride.
Ica – Sandboarding
Swap the snow for the sand and go sandboarding down Ica’s huge sand dunes. If you’re finding it hard to stay up on your feet, don’t worry…just lay on your stomach on the board, and enjoy the thrill of ‘sand sledding’.
Paracas – Ballestas Islands Boat Tour
As you get close to the Ballestas Islands you’ll spot huge gatherings of sea lions and hundreds of marine birds on and above the eroded caves and arches of these spectacular islands. The boat takes you close to the coast where you have an excellent view of a 164ft. (50m) high candelabra shaped carving that looks as though a giant figure drew it into the sand!
Paracas – The Bay Reserve
A desert home to millions of seabirds such as flamingos, penguins and pelicans that also offers spectacular scenery and wild natural beaches. Visiting the Paracas Bay Reserve in the afternoon is the perfect combination with a morning trip to the Ballestas Islands.
The Nazca Lines are one of the most interesting archaeological mysteries in the world dating back to 300 BC and made up of stylized lines and giant figures. They can only be seen from lookout towers or by flying over them. Please note that not all planes are recommended and so, for safety’s sake, only take flights recommended by us.
Nazca – Chauchilla Burial Tombs
About 19 miles (30km) south of Nazca is an extensive valley of tombs from the Inca-Chincha period (A.D. 1000-1400). While referred to as a cemetery, the site is more like a necropolis. Thousands of graves have been uncovered in the surrounding area. While only 12 underground tombs are exposed to visitors, they paint a vivid picture of the ancient valley culture.
What you need to know
When to go
The areas in this region can be visited at any time of the year since the weather is usually dry and sunny. The average temperature ranges from around 80.6°F (27°C) from December to March to 64.4°F (18°C) between the months of June and September
How to get there
Ica, Nazca and Paracas all have small airports, but only charter flights make the journey to these three destinations.
Therefore one of the easiest ways to get to this part of Peru is by bus via the Pan-American Highway. The trip to Ica from Lima takes about 5 hours. The trip to Nazca from Lima takes about 7 hours and to Paracas about 4 hours. It is fairly easy to travel to the region in this manner as there are a wide variety of bus companies with frequent departures to and from these cities.
In Nazca you can take the world-famous flight over the Nazca Lines. We recommend taking this fight in the morning because the wind in the afternoon can be strong which can restrict visibility of the lines below and the turbulence can make the flight bumpy.
Where to stay
There are differing levels of accommodations in this region of Peru. Choosing either the more basic hotel or the area’s slightly more luxurious variety, you should always check for availability before setting off on your journey to this region.
The local cuisine is excellent and there are numerous restaurants that specialize in the food of this region. However if the indigenous food is not to your liking there are also many restaurants (especially around Ica) that serve international food and offer a varied menu to satisfy all tastes or along the seafront in Paracas serving up some of the country’s best seafood.
the Cruz del sur bus company has excellent busses that connects Lima to Pisco (3 hours), Paracas (3 hours), Ica (4 hours) and Nazca (6 hours). Services run between these destinations on a regular basis.
For transport in and around the cities, there are always cheap taxi’s available.