PARACAS AND THE BALLESTAS ISLANDS

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.

Read my other article in Peru!

LIMA: THE BEST TO VISIT

Lima, the capital of Peru, has so much to offer, depending on what you expect from a big city. It is one of the largest cities in South America and has a long history behind. You probably will start your journey in Peru in Lima as I did to recover my body from 18 hours of flight. So I stopped in the city just one day and half to go in other beautiful places that this amazing country offer to you.

Lima from the top

So, here are my recommendations.

MIRAFLORES

Miraflores, is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Lima and it is the places where you probably will stay in a hostel during your stay in Lima.

View from larcomar

If you want to have a view on the coast profile of Lima, you can go to Larcomar enjoying a good coffee. It is a shopping center right but the view is amazing. It is built into the side of the cliff and mostly underground, it has incredible views of the Pacific Ocean.

There you can also rent a bike and drive it all along the coast. In fact, with its green parks and the cliffs overlooking the ocean, Miraflores is also the perfect place to go for a bicycle tour. From here you can take a tour into the center of the city, along the cliffs, do an urban tour or combine your cycling trip with surfing!

Miraflores is also the place in case you want to see the coast from the top! Not as extreme as it sounds, paragliding by the coast is the perfect day activity to catch the green areas, ocean and the urban buildings of Lima’s coast with a 360° view.

If you like more History and culture, in Miraflores you can also visit the pre-inca ruins ofHuaca Pucllana. Easy to arrive, it is not expensive and there is the guide in English or Spanish that guide you to understand this piece of history!

BARRANCO

The uber driver when pick me up in the airport told me to not miss Barranco. This district is probably the coolest place in Lima and the perfect escape from Miraflores for a good drink during night. At night, Barranco transforms itself in onr of the Lima’s party district with great restaurants and themed alternative bars both for Peruvians and foreigners.

More than that Barranco has great historical architecture and a blooming art scene. One of the most famous places to see, is Puente de los Suspiros. This bridge connects two main streets. It is said that if you can cross the bridge while holding your breath, your wish will be granted. And below it you can walk till the sea and enjoy a peaceful walk.

Square of Barranco

Read my other Articles on South America!

PUNTA GALLINAS: THE NORTHEAST CORNER OF SOUTH AMERICA

Punta Gallinas is desert, is the extreme northern corner of South America. It can be seen as the beginning of a continent or the ending: the point where the immense land of South America meets the ocean and just finished; it is almost poetry, where Colombia becomes desert and then becomes water…

If this all sounds nice for your ears, you have to go to Punta Gallinas: when you arrive it seems to be on a movie set, a forgot place, in many ways! If you are planning a trip to Colombia and want to include La Guajira (or the Caribbean coast in general), you really should be planning a visit to Punta Gallinas. Sure, Cabo de la Vela is lovely, and easy to visit, but Punta Gallinas is where the Guajira peninsula gets truly unreal and otherworldly.

The experience if you go on your own is far more rewarding culturally, and you have the freedom and flexibility to choose what you do and where you stay. In addition: it’s cheaper to travel to Punta Gallinas this way!

HOW TO GET THERE

I traveled to Punta Gallinas in August and it was hot but the place is so peacefull; I planned my trip to Punta Gallinas in Cabo de la Vela. I divided the costs with another traveler with whom I organized the transport. Although hardly overwhelmed by tourism, Punta Gallinas is now a regularly scheduled trip from Cabo, with daily departures and a steady stream of travelers making the journey.

 

You can also do a different road; there are also private tours available from Santa Marta and Riohacha: everything is taken care of for 4 days and 3 nights or 3 days and 2 nights, for a high cost. I would strongly recommend traveling La Guajira independently.

DSCN1065

You can reach Punta Gallinas by boat or car (4×4 vehicle). Both cost the same if organized from Cabo de la Vela: I paid 75.000 COP for the transportation and 45.000 for the night there. This cost is for return transport and the day-tour activity once you get to Punta Gallinas (more on that later). Bargain the price and you will not pay a lot!

I had the food included too (one dinner, one breakfast and one lunch). Normally the trip is 2 days with one night but if you decide to stay more than one night just let the driver know when you are planning to leave in advance so he can schedule to collect you on that day.

Organizing the trip is easy: most accommodation in Cabo de la Vela ask you pretty much straight away if you want to visit Punta Gallinas, and there are drivers leaving on a daily basis. The only thing to remember is to have the cash when you go to Cabo the la Vela.

ACCOMMODATION

There is really only one place to stay in up here: Hospedaje Alexandra. The car or boat just takes you straight there. The set-up for sleeping are hammocks and chinchorros. If you did not book before, a hammock will set you back 15.000 COP per night, and a chinchorro 20.000. A chinchorro is a large Wayuu hammock, with room to lie diagonally and flat. There are also a limited number of basic private rooms, which run to 30.000 per person.

When you arrive, you see a row of hammocks, all strung up in several little outdoors areas, open on all four sides, but with a roof over the top: you will generally be put with the same people you came in the vehicle! I was with the friend that travelled with me and 4 English guys that unfortunately hadn’t money with them…. We helped them to buy food and drinks!

The first day you will arrive, you will do the included tour you buy with the accommodation and the transportation; the extra day you can pass here gives you the chance to explore the area in a more independent manner, away from the prescribed itinerary of the day 1 tour. I took a walk across the desert to the north coast, meeting some local Wayuu people on the way, and enjoying the surprising variety of plants and animals. I passed the afternoon on the beach, chilling and relaxing. Later that afternoon, I took the boat to go back to Cabo the la Vela.

it’s definitely worth the money you will spent.