Here’s a Mouthful: Visiting Huacachina/ Paracas & Islas Ballestas/ Nazca
I’ll include these cities and tours in this same post because they’re all relatively near one another and we only spent a few days visiting all of them.
Go directly to Huacachina- Do not pass Ica- Do not collect $200… You get the picture. For your own sanity do not stay in Ica, book directly in Huacachina no matter how much more expensive it may seem. We made this mistake in order to save a few bucks and immediately regretted it. Ica is loud, crowded and if.one.more.taxi honks at you—you just might explode!!! Huacachina on the other hand is literally an oasis amid all the chaos.
A 10 minute taxi ride from Ica took us into Hucachina where we were greeted by a relaxing palm tree lined lagoon surrounded by scenic sand dunes. To beat the heat we had a couple of beers poolside while waiting for the sun to go down. The most awesome thing to do here is take a buggy ride up to the dunes and combine that with a little sand boarding. This will cost around 30 soles. Make sure you book the tour at sundown as the sand is cool and you get the best views of the sunset.
Paracas & Islas Ballestas:
Deemed the poor man’s Galapagos, Islas Ballestas is an affordable day tour away where you can observe sea lions and blue-footed boobies up close. Make sure you research tour companies before booking because you may end up with a really crappy tour guide like we did. We booked last-minute on a whim and among other things our guide ended up leaving our group behind when we were getting ready to board the boat.
After a big uproar we finally boarded the boat and fortunately ended up having a great time since we got a different guide who was actually knowledgeable. The islands were visually striking and fantastic. Even though we had already seen plenty of marine life in the Galapagos, I don’t think I could ever get tired of looking at sea lions.
Next on our tour we visited the Paracas National Reserve. The salt lined landscape was unreal and like nothing we had seen before. There were remarkable seaside cliffs that were met with powerful waves. We observed “the cathedral” a natural rock formation that was destroyed by an earthquake in 2007. We were also able to visit the red beach that promised the best free pedicure with its tiny massaging pebbles. Don’t miss hiking up to the top of the hill located near the restaurants for an incredible view of Paracas.
Later that afternoon we took a 2.5-hour bus ride to Nazca. We ended up booking a great room at Travel One Hostel where our gracious host offered us a tour of the Nazca lines. The next day we boarded the 30-minute flight which cost about 80 USD. The Nazca lines are really an incredible and mysterious sight to see and I wish that I could tell you I saw and photographed all 12 of the figures. Unfortunately, I can’t because by the sixth one I was already throwing up. If you’re anything like me do not forget to take your motion sickness medicine and get your barf bag ready just in case.