While living in Peru in 2008, me and my friend decided to do a spur of the moment trip outside of Lima. We had a few national public holidays in the week that was celebrating Peru’s independence. We were sitting at a café, and dear old Evan Anderson suggested we try somewhere nearby. I agreed, plus travelling in Peru was super cheap. After much research, we chose a more off the beaten track place called Paracas.
Where is Paracas?
Paracas is a small fishing town off the Peruvian coast in the province of Ica. Ica is also home to the famous Nazca lines and many great archaeological and historical sites. The ride form Lima to Paracas is just over an hour.
How to get there
We took an intercity bus, which we just bought tickets for the next day. It was only 8 Peruvian Soles back then. The bus rides through the Peruvian desert along the coast, and played a lot of pirated kid movies such as Kung-fu Panda and the Princess Diaries to entertain the passengers.
Along the way, the bus suddenly came to a stop. The driver tried to restart it, but it wouldn’t budge. Everyone had to get off and stand on the highway in the desert and then wait for the next bus that was being sent to pick us up. Along the way, we met a Dutch girl who was travelling alone. She was travelling the whole world with just her backpack and was on her way to Paracas. We befriended her and we agreed to share the accommodation in Paracas to help save money. Great!
Paracas’ main town is small, and littered with derelict buildings. The inhabitants are mainly fishermen, a few store owners and plenty of B&B and hotels. The bus stops in the main town centre, however this is not where you want to be. The beach and tourist sites are a little father down and you can easily take a taxi to the harbour.
Ica is an area that is the worst affected by earthquakes in Peru. In 2008, when we went, many homes and buildings were still is shambles from the last major quake. Many roads were cracked too and slowly being rebuilt. Many of these places rely on voluntary aid to help restore the damage done by the earthquakes.
The Harbour, Pisco Bay
We arrived at the main harbour area. It is a simple road leading in and out and many buses take this route to Nazca. The sea breeze was fresh and the overall town very quiet. We found a good hotel and got a room with 3 beds. It was about 20 Soles per person.
After we settled in, we took a boat to take us around the fascinating natural harbour. Due to the frequent activity of earthquakes in the region, you will find many rock formations and parts of the land higher above the sea level.
Many of the sea and bird life migrate down here from Galapagos. It was an overcast day with calm seas. We saw lots of pelicans and we spotted friendly dolphins swimming aside our boat! Whales also migrate along these shores.
I didn’t do much research on the place, but the boat stopped in front a giant sand dune that rose out of the sea. On the dune were strange lines, made in the same manner and way of the famous Nazca lines. The lines formed a sort of tree, and looking closer it had lots of odd shaped weird triangles between the “branches” (sadly these cannot be seen in the photos). The Spanish termed it the candelabra as they saw it resembled one. It’s a giant structure and, like the Nazca lines, can be best seen from afar or from the sky. I was fascinated. I believe there is so much more to it!
We travelled across the desert in an old little rickety bus which rode across the dunes. There were about 13 other tourists. We didn’t book it beforehand. We just got the bus which came by the hostel. The desert winds were really cold, so wear something warm!
The Ica desert was rather majestic and beautiful. It lied above the Pacific seas and was filled with numerous cracks in the land caused by earthquakes. Earthquake tremors in Peru are more common than you think. They happen every week, but they are not strong enough to be felt most of the time. If you’re into archaeology, Paracas is also the area where they unearthed those odd-shaped skulls!
In the photo below to your left I am standing in front of the famous rock formation called The Cathedral, later that year in 2008 another big earthquake hit the area and the cathedral’s arch caved in. It is no more.
Paracas was a pretty cool trip, and usually unplanned unexpected trips are. I think it has lots to show and a great way of seeing more of Peru’s natural environment. The trip can be done in just 1 or two days, as there is not that much to see. It was a nice break away from the city! Many people do it as a stop before going on to the bigger part of the desert where the mysterious Nazca lines lie.