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.