Paracas (also known as El Balneario or El Chaco) was once a resort spot for wealthy Limeños, whose expensive resort hotels and large bungalows line the beach close to the entrance of the reserve, but now reasonably prices hotels and restaurants dominate the scene. The wharf here, surrounded by pelicans, is the place to board speedboats, for a quick zip across the sea, circling one or two of the islands and passing close to the famous Paracas Trident.
This pre-lnca culture developed from 1000 BC in the coastal valleys of the present-day provinces of Chincha and Pisco, on both sides of the Ica River. It can be divided into two stages: Paracas Caverns and Paracas Necropolis. This classification is based on the ways in which this culture buried its dead. The first and oldest stage is closely associated with the Chavín culture, which existed almost parallel with Huari, near present-day Huaraz. The second stage, which produced the beautiful Paracas textiles, is related to the Nasca culture, which succeeded the Paracas culture.
Skull trepanation was very common in this culture. It was performed to treat wounds produced by blows to the head probably inflicted in warfare, whereby a plate made from gold or pumpkin shell was used to replace the damaged section of the skull.
Evidence found in their cemeteries indicates that the people of Paracas practised the custom of deforming their skulls from birth by bandaging them with boards in order to create a desired shape. The deformation of skulls probably had some kind of religious significance or lent prestige to certain members of the culture.
Whatever the reason for this custom, the people of Paracas managed to master the technique of altering the axis of the brain to make it develop in an elongated form.
Around 200 kilometers to the south of Lima, you will find the coast of Peru where the hammerhead Paracas peninsula overhangs the Pacific sea. The north side of the peninsula forms the Paracas Bay and the land along the coast consists mostly of deserts and little plant life.
However, the Peruvian oceans hold huge diversity in marine wildlife, including sea lions and guano birds from the Ballestas islands; the abundance in marine wildlife is due to the nutrient-rich and cold water that flows up from Antarctica.
El Chaco is Paracha’s main town, the town is in the middle of dry hills and the Ica desert. These deserts, however, have an abundance of sand dunes; an appealing attraction for thrill-seeking travellers looking to sand board.
Paracas will on average have a temperature of 24*C, with a dry climate and limited rainfall. Paracas translated from Quechua is ‘rain of sand’, which is in reference to the very strong wind that will pass through the coastlines and peninsula picking up and to make a sort of rain.
The Ballestas Islands are similar to the Galápagos but on a smaller scale, lying off of the coast due west of Pisco. They seem to be alive and moving with a mass of flapping, noisy pelicans, penguins, tenis, boobies and Guanay cormorants. The name Ballesta is Spanish for ‘the crossbow’, and may derive from times when marine mammals and larger fish were hunted with mechanical crossbow-style harpoons. There are scores of islands, many of them relatively small and none larger than a couple of football pitches put together, the waters are generally rough but modern boats can get close to the rocks and beaches where abundant wildlife sleep, feed and mate. The waters around the islands are equally full of life, sometimes sparkling black with the shiny dark bodies of sea lions and the occasional killer whale.
Paracas National Reserve
Of greater wildlife interest than the Ballestas Islands, the Paracas National Reserve was established in 1975, to protect the marine wildlife. Its bleak 117,000 hectares of Pampa are frequently lashed by strong winds and sandstorms. Home to some of the world’s richest seas, an abundance of marine plankton gives nourishment to a vast array of fish and various marine species including octopus, squid, whale, shark, dolphin, bass, plaice and marlin. This unique desert is also a staging point for a host of migratory birds and acts as a sanctuary for many endangered species. Schools of dolphin play in the waves offshore; condors scour the peninsula for food; small desert foxes come down to the beaches looking for birds and dead sea lions and lizards scramble across the hot sands. People have also been active here – predecessors of the pre-Inca Paracas culture arrived here some 9000 years ago, reaching their peak between 2000 and 500 BC. On the way from Pisco to the reserve, the road passes some unpleasant smelling processing factories, which are causing environmental concern due to spillages of fish oil that is polluting the bay, endangering birds and sea life.
The Paracas Trident (el candelabra)
The Paracas Trident, a massive 128-metre-high by 74-metre-wide candelabra carved into the tall sea cliffs and facing out towards the Pacific Ocean, is one of Paracas main features. No one knows its function or its creator, though Erich von Dániken, author of Chariots of the Gods, speculated that it was a sign for an extraterrestrial spacecraft, pointing the way (inaccurately as happens) towards the mysterious Nasca Lines that are inland to the southeast. Others suggest it was constructed as a navigational aid for eighteenth-century pirates. It seems more likely, however, that it was a kind of pre-Inca ritual object, representing a cactus or tree of life, and those high priests during the Paracas or Nasca eras worshipped the setting sun from this spot.
According to myth, the lagoon at HUACACHINA, about 5kms southwest of Ica, was created when a princess stripped off her clothes to bathe. When she looked into a mirror and saw that a male hunter was watching her she dropped the mirror, which then became the lagoon. More prosaically, during the late 1940s, the lagoon became one of Peru’s most elegant and exclusive resorts, surrounded by palm trees, sand dunes and waters famed for their curative powers. Since then, the lagoon’s subterranean source has grown erratic and it is supplemented by water pumped up from artesian wells, making it less of a red-coloured, viscous syrup and more like a green, salty swimmable lagoon; it retains considerable mystique, making it a quiet, secluded spot to relax in. The curative powers of the lagoon attract people from all over, the mud from the lake is reputed to cure arthritis and rheumatism if you bathe in it and the sand around the lagoon is also supposed to benefit people with respiratory problems, so it’s not uncommon to see locals buried up to their necks in the dunes.
The settlement has more than twenty houses and is growing very slowly, but one end of the lagoon has been left fairly clear of construction. Climb the dunes at the end of the lake and take in the views from the top early in the morning, before it gets too hot and prior to the noisy dune-buggy runs.
Sand-dune surfing: On the higher slopes, sand-dune surfing is all the rage and you can rent wooden boards from the cafés and hotels along the shoreline.
Dune buggies: Adrenaline rides are offered at some of the cafés, hotels and independent kiosks and shops.
Boating: You can rent boats for rowing or peddling on the lagoon.
Take a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands
Large flocks of birds and huge sea lion colonies offer you a unique boat tour surrounded by rare marine wildlife. The area is reserved for genuine ecotourism, research and wildlife lovers will love navigating right up to the islands’ banks for closer wildlife observation.
Enjoy the water in Paracas
Paracas is a land of sunshine and calm beaches and it is the perfect place to enjoy nature and get away from the world whilst exploring the wonderful sandy, marine pathways. Alternatively, you can take the opposite approach and head down to the shore and choose from kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, kitesurfing, windsurfing and many other wind and water sports.
If you are an adrenaline-seeker, book a dune buggy and sand board tour of the sand dunes around Huacachina. An expert driver will drive you over the massive dunes at breakneck speeds. You can then practice your sandboarding skills on both big and small dunes.
Splurge and chill out poolside
A Paracas hotel is the ideal place to relax and recuperate from those busy days with packed itineraries. Stay at one of Paracas’ well-priced beach resorts, most include fabulous pools that will overlook the bay. Take the time to enjoy the breath-taking landscapes, views, whilst sipping on a delicious cocktail.
PARACAS LUXURY COLLECTION Located a few hours from Lima, is facing a Paracas National Reserve, in which natural beaches and great variety of wildlife are preserved. The hotel offers world-class facilities, a private dock, the city’s only spa, exquisite local and international cuisine and exciting experiences that will allow you to be in touch with...
DOUBLETREE RESORT BY HILTON PARACAS The DoubleTree Resort by Hilton Hotel Paracas-Peru, situated at the beach next to Paracas National Reserve and only 10-minutes from Pisco International Airport (PIO). Home to fascinating archeological sites, Paracas is just a 20-minute flight or 2-hour drive from the famous Nazca Desert line drawings. Our all-suite hotel is only...
ARANWA PARACAS RESORT Paracas Bay is located in the province of Pisco and it is an irresistible invitation to discover the wonderful natural diversity of Paracas, besides the traditional journey through the rich history of this place. Our hotel is exclusive and modern, ideal to unwind and enjoy either with a group, couple, or family, as it...
LA HACIENDA BAHIA PARACAS HOTEL The Hacienda Bahia Paracas Hotel is located just three hours south of Lima, on the shores of the beautiful Bay of Paracas where luxury and simplicity blend perfectly. Come and experience the comfort and tranquility that this beach side resort offers. Every room in La Hacienda Bahia Paracas, has been...