If a two-hour jaunt around the Islas Ballestas doesn't satisfy your thirst for guano, sea lions, and sea birds, then a land trip to this 280,000-hectare (700,000-plus-acre) park just might. The stunning coastal reserve, on a peninsula south of Pisco, teems with wildlife. Pelicans, condors, and red-and-white flamingos congregate and breed here; the latter are said to have inspired the red-and-white independence flag General San Martín designed when he liberated Peru. On
shore you can't miss the sound (or the smell) of the hundreds of sea lions, while in the water you might spot penguins, sea turtles, dolphins, manta rays, and even hammerhead sharks.
Named for the blustering paracas (sandstorms) that buffet the west coast each winter, the Reserva Nacional de Paracas is Peru's first park for marine conservation. Organized tours take you along the thin dirt tracks that crisscross the peninsula, passing by sheltered lagoons, rugged cliffs full of caves, and small fishing villages. This is prime walking territory, where you can stroll from the bay to the Julio Tello Museum, and on to the fishing village of Lagunilla 5 km (3 miles) farther across the neck of the peninsula. Adjacent to the museum are colonies of flamingos, best seen June through July (and absent January through March, when they fly to Sierra). Hike another 6 km (4 miles) to reach Mirador de Lobos (Sea-Lion Lookout) at Punta El Arquillo. Carved into the highest point in the cliffs above Paracas Bay, 14 km (9 miles) from the museum is the Candelabra. Note that you must hire a guide to explore the land trails. Minibus tours of the entire park can be arranged through local hotels and travel agencies for about S/65–S/75 for five hours.
Feb 24, 2014
One of the best ways to discover Peru's famous Paracas National Reserve is by bike. You can take a standard tour that lasts a couple of hours and be herded off and on a bus at each stop or you can take your own self-guided tour by bike and linger where you like. There are some amazing spots that deserve more attention and time (like the beautiful virgin beach Playa La Mina). And of course, getting there is part of the experience, letting the cool
breeze of the ocean fill your lungs and rustle your hair while cycling the reserve is a wonderful feeling. If you want to consider biking the reserve, check out http://SecretsofPeru.com#BikeParacas . They are the first self-guided bike tour agents in Paracas and the official provider for the National Reserve. They provide detailed maps, great italian mountain bikes (Biachi), repair-kit and rescue service in case you have problems with the bike.