Visiting Nazca, Huacacina and Paracas
The perfect guide to planning few days of discovering the Nazca lines, Huacachina sand dunes/oasis and relaxing at the ocean side town of Paracas.
Travelling from Nazca to Huacachina and then to Paracas, you will see some very diverse landscapes, from deserts and sand dunes to the ocean and seaside national parks. Discover a beautiful side of Peru which is less renowned but truly stunning.
1 day in Nazca
Nazca is a sleepy desert town, home to one of the most fascinating mysteries of the world: the Nazca lines. A series of ancient geoglyphs created by the Nazca culture between 500 BCE and 500 CE. The meaning behind the Nazca lines remains a mystery, even though there have been many interpretations. One of the most famous ones comes from Maria Reich, who believed the lines were a kind of astronomical observatory.
We arrived in the morning and hopped straight into an Air Paracas tiny, six-seater aeroplane which took us on a 30-minute flight over the desert, showcasing 12 Nazca figures. From above we could see the vastness of the Nazca desert marked by uncountable lines like the palm of a hand. The figures stand out in their neat and artistic shapes and even though they might seem small, they are actually huge, with the biggest one being 370m long.
The Humming Bird
While in Nazca we had a very comfortable stay at La Maison de Lydia. The lovely owner came to pick us up at the bus station in the morning and organized our flight in less than thirty minutes with Air Paracas. For dinner, we would recommend Catalina for tasty Italian inspired food.
2 days in Huacachina
Still in the desert, but a desert made of golden, soft sand dunes, there is a real-life oasis which will make you feel like you stepped into a fairytale! Ten minutes from the city of Ica, seemingly out of nowhere (like any proper oasis would), a green oasis by the name Huacachina pops out. The oasis is filled with green leafy plants and palms which were believed to have healing powers by the wealthy Peruvians visiting from Lima to restore their bodies and skin. All around the oasis, the sand dunes expand for kilometres and kilometres, offering an infinite landscape similar to the Sahara desert.
Huacachina is famous also for its adrenaline activities. Dune buggies will take you on a rollercoaster-like ride on the dunes or you can rent sandboards or even skies to enjoy a day on the slopes. On a nice day, when the sun sets over the dunes, make your way up at the top of the highest dune you can find (or are willing to climb). The view is breathtaking and unforgettable.
We decided to sleep in Ica instead of Huacachina as we found the offer to be better value for money. Our Hostel Sumac was a very basic family owned property but comfortable and clean. The lady who runs it prepared a wonderful breakfast every morning too. For lunch one day make sure to visit the Tacama Wine Farm. A pink wall restaurant set within fields of green vines, in an idyllic countryside, serving traditional Peruvian dishes and stone oven pizzas. The wine is a tasty treat too!
The only negative side, to be mentioned with the aim of promoting a positive change, is the remarkable amount of garbage that we found on the road to Ica and then again on the road to the wine-farm. Truly sad to see how poor is the management of garbage and how careless people can be towards their natural and beautiful surroundings.
2 days in Paracas
A wild, rough coastline that reminds us of the Portuguese Algarve, a simple fishing town with colourful boats and bustling seaside restaurants. Home of the Paracas National Reserve, which includes one of the biggest protected deserts in the Americas as well as the Ballestas Islands, known for their wildlife, also known as “the poor man’s Galapagos”. Paracas is a mix of rugged beauty and high-class hotels and beach clubs that cover the coastline. During our visit, the town was very quiet being winter, but you can see how in summer it must be a vibrant and very cool destination.
When in Paracas there is one hotel only which will make your time there beyond perfect, the exclusive Hotel Paracas. Entering the doors of Hotel Paracas felt like stepping into paradise: contemporary and sophisticated design mixed with great comfort and tropical vibes. The rooms, all set in-between lush palms and flowers, open on to the ocean which can be enjoyed through your, private, balcony. Inside you will find all the comforts of a king size bed, plenty of space and both a bathtub and a shower.
The property offers two pools, a bar with a fireplace and spa. Expect to spend a lazy afternoon lounging with a cocktail at poolside, enjoying the warm Peruvian sun. If you are looking for more adventure, included in your stay are excursions on a small catamaran, paddle boarding or kayaks. On our second day, we rented a couple of bicycles and made our way to the Paracas National Reserve, where we’ve been able to spot pink flamingos on the shores of the bay.
Food was a wonderful surprise during our stay at Hotel Paracas, where the offer is ample. The main restaurant Ballestas ran by Head Chef Franco Rivadeneyra, offers incredible fine dining fusion dishes, which combine Peruvian cuisine with Mediterranean flavours. La Trattoria brings an Italian touch to your Peruvian holiday, offering all the classic italian staples. But the real gem and a place we thoroughly enjoyed was Chalana Restaurant. This tiny white wood restaurant perched at the end of the pier, right on the water, serves the best ceviche we ever tasted. Defined as ‘0km food’, Chalana offers dishes made from the catch of the day brought in by local fishermen and ingredients grown on nearby farms. All of this is prepared without using electricity or fuel. Sustainable and delicious.
3 things to do in Paracas
When you are done with the lounging, cocktail tasting and chilling, here are some beautiful places you should visit!
Cycle to the Paracas National Reserve and feel like you've landed on another planet. On a sunny day the vibrant colours of the blue water, the red of the beach and ocra of the desert look like a Martian landscape. On the water, you will also be able to spot pink flamingos.
Day trip to Isla Ballestas where you can get a glimpse of the bottlenose dolphins swimming close to your boat and hundreds of birds flying in between the waves crashing on the rocks. Also, make sure to visit the Candelabra geoglyph for another taste of history.
Visit Tambo Colorado Inca outpost. Just an hour from Paracas, this archaeological site once represented an administrative base and religious centre of the Inca people. It takes the name from the red paint which once covered all its walls.