If you start your Perù travel in Lima, Paracas & the Ballestas island is a nice stop in the road to Arequipa. It is a tiny place along the Peruvian coastline.
Islas Ballestas: an half day trip
The islas Ballestas are a natural sight and a great reason to visit Paracas. I never have seen so many sea lions together in my life and is very easy it is to arrange a trip to the Islas Ballestas.
The islands are also called: the poor men’s Galapagos Islands. A trip to the Islas Ballestas cost 5 euros and to arrange it just ask it in your hostel in Paracas. From there a guide will keep you to the port and within a couple of minutes you will be there. Remember to ask the price, you don’t have to pay more than that!
When you arrive to the port you have to buy the ticket and for the Islas and the reserve there is one ticket, so keep this in your mind because maybe they will not tell you. The cost is around 6 or 7 euro.
Tours leave at 8 am and at 10 am. But the waters around Paracas are known to become rockier and weather unpredictable later in the day. The 8 am tour will have calmer seas (resulting in more chances of seeing dolphins!).
I did both the same day, in the morning the Islas and in the afternoon the reserve, which is so beautiful too.
For the islands, you’ll go out in medium sized boats to explore the waters around Paracas for 2 hours. You will enjoy the greatest biodiversity marine fauna & the mysterious Candelabro, a geoglyph carved in the Paracas peninsula of unknown origin, and upon arrival the guide will explain the different theories that exist of this place.
The departure will be at 8 in the morning, and the trip will take approximately 30 minutes until the arrival to the first Island. From the boat you will appreciate the contrast of the sea and the rocky desert of it the Paracas peninsula until arrive to the Island.
And then you see the landscape full of marine fauna. In fact you will be able to observe hundreds and hundreds of sea lions and sea lions babies playing and swimming in the sea.
After having appreciated this impressive landscape the boat will leave for the Ballestas Islands, where you can appreciate rock formations thousands of guano birds, cormorants, pelicans and penguins of Humboldt.
The Paracas Reserve
After a stop in the hostel for an hour, a bus passes to take me for the next tour to the Reserve. The transport is 4 Euros, and the entrance ticket is included in the combo with the Islas. The Reserve was a nice surprise! The Paracas National Reserve is actually an amazing park that you can explore also on your own depending on the time you have.
The first stop is the reserve’s museum, displaying all the animals in the Pacific Ocean and the impact that we have on the waters around Paracas. After this, you will continue to Playa Roja, a red beach with crushing waves on the shore. Amazing views of the deserted land and the wide open ocean. We stopped in Lagunillas to eat fish.. and there I had the most amazing ceviche I eat in Peru, with a good Beer eating in front of the Ocean!
Some info on Paracas
When you go there remember that the local communities are struggling. After the 2007 earthquake (8.0 on the magnitude scale), Paracas was in ruins. It was not the first one, the town was hit hard by previous quakes and this one was the last drop.
Since then, the town was rebuilt from the ground up and flourishes because of tourists visiting the Islas Ballestas. So please, don’t book the tour in Lima, if you are a sustainable traveler, book your tours with locally. Visit Paracas independently, eat out in the town and speak with locals. It is really easy and you will support the people who need.