Paracas in Peru is known for its beautiful coastal landscape, including stunning cliffs, beaches, and the national reserve, which is home to diverse wildlife and the famous Ballestas Islands.
The town is a popular tourist destination, particularly for those interested in nature, archaeology, and water sports.
Since living in Miraflores in Lima, I’ve had the chance to visit this charming little beach town a number of times and truly enjoy everything that it has to offer.
In this guide, I’ll cover some need-to-know basics like where it is and how to get there, before moving on to all of the best things to do and see in the area.
I’ll then jump into all the best places to stay, eat and drink and let you know things like the best time to visit, how much it costs and more.
Where is it
Paracas is a small town located on the southern coast of Peru, in the region of Ica.
It’s situated approximately 260 kilometres (160 miles) south of Lima, the capital city of Peru.
How to get to there
If you’re coming from anywhere in the north of Peru or in fact South America, then you’ll almost certainly need to stop in Lima on your way through.
As such, I’ve put information on how to get there from Lima below as a separate section and so feel free to jump straight to this.
If you’re travelling from south to north, then your two options are:
- Take the bus
- Fly to Lima and then see the next section
There are many bus companies which operate across Peru and they all differ in price, quality and journey time.
My go-to platform when booking buses in South America is Busbud as they consolidate all of the timetables and prices from the different bus companies which makes it super easy to choose the right one.
Check the timetable and prices: Busbud
Lima to Paracas
Travelling by bus takes approximately 3 to 4 hours depending on the bus company you choose.
As mentioned just now – Busbud is an excellent platform to book through.
Personally, I have experience travelling with Cruz del Sur and Peru Bus.
The latter is generally more affordable and offers a slightly less luxurious experience.
However, considering the relatively short duration of the journey compared to other bus trips in South America, it remains a comfortable choice.
If your in Lima and staying either the Miraflores or Barranco neighbourhood, the bus stations you’re likely to depart from are Javiar Prado or Avenida Mexico.
These stations are situated along a busy highway, and Uber is recommended as a convenient means of reaching them.
It’s also important to note that you’ll need to arrive at the bus station at least 20 to 30 minutes before the scheduled departure time to allow for sufficient time to complete any necessary check-in procedures.
If you have the money, then opting for a taxi or car rental is a viable choice for travelling from A to point B.
And once you leave Lima – a city notorious for its chaotic traffic – the roads become much more straightforward and easy to navigate.
Plus, if you are travelling with a group, taking a taxi or renting a car can often be a cost-effective option that offers greater flexibility.
Similar to Busbud, the platform I always rely on – Rentalcar.com – consolidates the best available companies, providing you with the best deals.
Tip: always make advance bookings to avoid inflated prices on the spot, especially when renting a car from the airport.
With a tour company
If you would rather entrust your travel arrangements to a reliable tour operator that guarantees an unforgettable experience, this is certainly an option worth considering.
I have personally chosen this option, and it simplifies things greatly.
Typically, you only need to arrive at the entrance of your hostel or hotel, and they will take care of all the arrangements from that point onward.
Below are some highly-rated tours that you can take from Lima, many of which include a visit to Huacachina – an incredible oasis where you can enjoy activities like sandboarding and camping in the desert.
You’ll find more information on Huacachina later on in this guide.
Things to do in Paracas in Peru
Take a bus tour of Paracas National Park
Paracas National Park is a protected natural area renowned for its remarkable coastal and marine ecosystems.
It spans an area of approximately 335,000 hectares (827,000 acres) and encompasses both land and sea.
One of the most common ways to explore the national park is with a bus tour that leaves from the town centre and travels to at least 3 of the most popular sites.
These sites include:
Playa Yumaque is an incredible beach known for its white sand and clear blue waters that are framed by cliffs and dunes, creating a picturesque backdrop against the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean.
The calm and clear waters make it an ideal spot for swimming, sunbathing, and enjoying the coastal scene.
Mirador Istmo is one of the best vantage points in the national park.
Visitors can witness the vastness of the reserve, admire the rugged cliffs, and appreciate the expansive views stretching out towards the ocean.
Most notably, you’ll enjoy fantastic views of Playa Roja – the next popular spot on this list – from above.
Playa Rojo is also known as the Red Beach and it’s one of the most unique and stunning beaches in Peru.
It gets its vibrant red colour from the iron oxide present in the sand, creating a visually captivating sight, and the contrast between the red sand, turquoise waters, and surrounding cliffs makes it a popular attraction among visitors.
Explore by mini-buggy
Another great way to explore the national park is with a mini-buggy tour.
You’ll typically visit the same sites as if you were to explore by bus, but this way is far more exhilarating.
The buggies hold 2 people, so you’ll need to pair up with someone and one of you will need to drive the buggy.
These are easy to drive and are similar to go-karts in a way.
However, you will need to be confident driving on the same road as the cars for a short period of time.
Tours last around 2 hours, with stops at each location lasting around 15 minutes.
Check prices: Mini-Buggy Tour
Discover the sights on a mountain bike
If you prefer to explore independently then another popular way to enjoy the national park is on a mountain bike.
You can rent these from a number of shops in the town for a decent price and enjoy a full day of exploration, taking as much time as you need to enjoy the beaches and viewpoints in between soaking up the incredible desert landscape.
As well as the most popular sites, there are a number of other excellent locations to visit that are reachable on a mountain bike.
These spots include:
- Playa La Mina Pisco
- La Cátedral
Regardless of how you choose to explore the national park, you’ll need a lot of sun protection and plenty of water to stay hydrated – particularly during the summer months here.
Take a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands
The Ballestas Islands are a group of small islands located off the coastline and they are a must-visit location for anyone looking to visit the area to enjoy nature, history and stunning scenery.
Whilst the islands are nick-named ‘poor mans Galapagos’ this shouldn’t take away from how incredible the experience is – especially when it’s for a fraction of the price.
Providing the weather permits – which it usually does in this part of the world – boats leave from the dock every single day.
The experience lasts a few hours and along the way, you’ll stop at the infamous Candelabra – a mysterious and impressive geoglyph that was carved into the sand on the side of a hill many years ago.
The most fascinating thing about this is that its origins and purpose remain unclear, adding to its intrigue.
When you reach the wildlife haven, you’ll be met by numerous sea lions basking in the sun on the rocks and swimming in the sea, as well as plenty of bird species, including Humboldt penguins, Peruvian boobies, pelicans, cormorants, and Inca terns.
Most tour providers are offering exactly the same experience, however, it is one of the most popular things to do in the area and so it’s best to get it booked ahead of time if you can.
Shop in the markets
After undoubtedly ticking off the Ballestas Islands and the national park, an afternoon wandering the streets and dipping in and out of the market shops is in order.
You’ll find that most of these are situated along the waterfront and they’re selling plenty of the classic souvenirs that you can pick up across Peru.
Whether you’re looking for alpaca garments or a symbolic ornament, you’ll no doubt find something here for a decent price.
Relax on El Chaco Beach
Although there are a number of beaches in the area, El Chaco Beach is the best.
It’s conveniently situated in front of all of the restaurants and shops and it’s the perfect location to enjoy some time in solitude or with friends.
If you’re looking for a bit of peace and quiet, then you’ll want to base yourself on the right-hand side of the beach as there are typically fewer things to do here.
On the left-hand side, you’ll find more people and water activities, as well as a feeding area for the pelicans.
I highly recommend spending at least one evening sitting on the beach to watch the sunset.
It’s always a spectacular show, with the fishing boats in the foreground whilst the burning orange sun sets in the distance.
Practice your kitesurfing skills
Paracas in Peru is one of the most popular places to visit for kitesurfing due to its favourable wind conditions and beautiful coastal setting.
Whilst winds are stronger during the summer months (December – March) they’re sufficient all year round and so you’ll always be able to enjoy the sport here.
There are many kitesurfing schools and shops dotted around the town, however, the two below are the very best:
- Kangaroo Kite
Jump in a pedalo
If you’re looking to spend some time in the water then renting a peddle-boat is an excellent way to enjoy the tranquillity on offer.
The calm seas in the harbour allow for this kind of activity, although you will need to watch out for the many fishing boats which reside here.
You’ll find plenty of pedalos up for grabs along the seafront and you can usually rent these for a cheap for a minimum of 30 minutes.
Bounce on the Aquapark
As you wander along El Chaco Beach, you’ll notice that out on the sea, there is a huge aquapark.
I know these aren’t unique to Peru, but if you’ve ever been on one then you’ll know just how much fun they are.
And don’t be fooled – they’re not just for kids.
You’ll see plenty of adults giving this a go and I can vouch for the fact you’ll not only have a laugh doing this but also burn a tonne of calories whilst you’re at it!
Embark on the Golden Shadows Trek
The Golden Shadows Trek is a short hike that leads along the coastline of the national park and offers breathtaking views in every direction.
Since the trek is at sunset, you’ll have a spectacular view of both the sunset and the moonrise at the same time, creating a truly unique and magical experience.
Whilst the views are undeniably incredible, the tour guide also plays a pivotal role in making the experience memorable.
Not only is he knowledgeable and informative, but he also has a great sense of humour that adds an extra layer of enjoyment to the journey.
One thing to note is that whilst the trek isn’t overly long, there are sections where you’ll navigate sandy terrain and encounter steep slopes.
At times, you may question the safety, but rest assured that everyone has successfully completed the hike without any injuries, as guaranteed by the guide.
Considering the conditions, it’s advisable to wear appropriate footwear, and although hiking boots may initially feel excessive, you’ll appreciate the support they provide as you progress further along the trail.
I’d also recommend packing a jumper or windproof jacket, as the coastal areas are super exposed.
Check prices: Golden Shadows Trek
Paragliding here usually takes place in the national park which is a stunning location to enjoy this thrilling and exhilarating activity as it allows you to experience the fabulous coastal landscapes from a unique perspective.
Before the flight, you’ll receive a safety briefing and be provided with all the necessary equipment, including a helmet and a safety harness.
Once you’re ready, you’ll launch from a designated take-off point, usually on a hill or cliff, and soar into the sky with your certified tandem paragliding instructor strapped behind you.
As you glide through the air, you’ll be treated to breathtaking views of the coastal scenery, with panoramic vistas of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding desert landscapes.
The duration of a flight varies depending on weather conditions, but it typically lasts from 10 to 30 minutes.
The experience is a reasonable price compared to other more westernised locations, so it’s a great opportunity to snap up this awesome experience.
Tip: If you suffer from motion sickness, then I highly recommend taking some medication in advance so there are no unwanted vomiting episodes!
Check prices: Paragliding Flight
Visit Museo de Sitio Julio C. Tello de Paracas
The Museo de Sitio Julio C. Tello de Paracas is named after the renowned Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello, who made significant contributions to the study of the culture here.
Situated within the national reserve, the museum houses a remarkable collection of artefacts and exhibits, as well as plenty of distinctive textiles and elaborate burials which are believed to have been from around 800 BCE to 200 BCE.
Personally, I think one of the best bits of the museum’s collection is the textiles.
In fact, they have such intricate patterns, vibrant colours, and advanced weaving techniques that they are considered among the finest examples of textile art from ancient Peru.
Spot the flamingos at Mirador de Flamencos
Mirador de Flamingos is a watchtower where you can view the flamingos in the shallow waters on the beachfront.
To get to the tower, you’ll need to head to the Museo de Sitio Julio C. Tello de Paracas and continue to follow the road which leads past the museum for approximately half a kilometre.
Once you arrive, you’ll be able to climb the watch tower and witness the stunning site of the pink flamingos in their natural habitat.
Huacachina is an incredible oasis in the Peruvian desert that’s situated just 1 hour from Paracas and is well worth including on your Peru itinerary.
In fact, most people visiting the country see this as a non-negotiable destination.
Not only is it an incredible sight, but it’s also a hub for incredible activities.
Whether you’re looking to enjoy a luxury camping trip under the stars in the middle of the secluded desert or get your adrenaline pumping with an exhilarating sandboarding and or sand buggy experience, there is something here for every type of traveller.
If you don’t have a car, then to get to Huacachina you’ll need to take a bus or taxi.
Taking the bus is straightforward and you’ll be able to find the timetable and prices on Busbud.
If you’d prefer to take a taxi, then you can expect to pay 100-120 soles, which is the equivalent of around $30 or £22.
Alternatively, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll find that there are many tours that leave from Lima which include both Paracas and Huacachina.
Below are some of the best:
Pisco is the next town along and is a charming place to visit – particularly if you like alcohol – since it is renowned for being the birthplace of the Pisco spirit – a grape brandy that is considered one of Peru’s national drinks.
The spirit is made from specific grape varieties grown in the nearby vineyards and is enjoyed both straight and in various cocktails, such as the famous Pisco Sour.
The town has numerous distilleries, where visitors can learn about the production process and even sample different varieties of Pisco!
In addition, you’ll also find a picturesque town square, as well as a sandy beach and plenty of wildlife.
Nazca is approximately 4 hours away and is best known for the enigmatic Nazca Lines – a series of ancient geoglyphs etched into the desert floor that dates back to the Nazca culture, which are thought to have appeared in the area between 200 BCE and 600 CE.
The Nazca Lines are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attract visitors from around the world who are able to view the lines from above with a flight experience.
Aside from the Nazca Lines, the town is home to various museums and plenty of excellent restaurants to sample Peruvian cuisine.
Where to stay
Viajero and Kokopelli are a chain of hostels which operate all across South America and they’re excellent.
Having stayed here myself, I can firmly say that this hostel has it all: the pool, the party, and also rooms far enough away for some peace and quiet, too.
Although the cost is slightly higher than some of the other hostels in the area, you’ll get a great night’s sleep in one of their capsule-style bunk beds that also come with a privacy curtain.
If you’re a solo traveller, it’s also super social and offers plenty of opportunities to participate in group activities in the area.
Check prices: Viajero-Kokopelli
Aquamarine Beach Hostal
Aquamarine Beach Hostal is named as a hostel and has the prices of a hostel, but it’s not a hostel.
If you’re travelling in a pair, then sharing a twin or double room here is an excellent way to skip a night in a dorm room and get a solid bit of sleep for the same price.
It’s situated very close to El Chaco Beach and is nicely decorated with all of the basic amenities you’ll need whilst you’re staying here.
Check prices: Aquamarine Beach Hostal
Budget: Paracas Guest House
Paracas Guest House is a small budget-style hotel that is clean and comfortable and benefits from a pool and a rooftop which is the perfect viewpoint for watching the sunset.
It’s located just 500 meters from El Chaco Beach and has modern rooms – most of which overlook the pool.
For the price, this place is a steal.
Check prices: Paracas Guest House
Mid-range: Atoq Paracas Reserva
Atoq Paracas Reserva is a stone’s throw from the beach and even has a pool which overlooks it.
The entire place is light and modern, with gorgeous bamboo details which scream beach holiday.
Each room is equipped with all of the basic necessities and you’ll be served a great breakfast in the morning as part of the price.
Check prices: Atoq Paracas Reserva
Luxury: Hotel Paracas
Despite not having the most original name, this hotel is what dreams are made of.
This incredible 5-star hotel has snagged prime position at the end of El Chaco Beach and boasts gorgeous sea views.
It goes without saying that there is an excellent heated pool, with luxurious cabana-style beds and fantastic service staff who will wait on you and foot.
As one of the best hotels in the area, it’s one of the most expensive, yet still a decent price compared to countries in places like North America and Europe.
Check prices: Hotel Paracas
You won’t be short of places to eat here and you’ll find most of the restaurants are situated along the beachfront.
However, most of these are cheap eats and not always the best.
Below are some tried and tested great places to eat in Paracas in Peru.
- Waiki pizza bar
- Trattoria de Paracas
- Milla Cero
Best time to visit
The best time to visit is December to March, as during this time, the weather is generally sunny and warm, making it ideal for outdoor activities and exploring the region.
You can expect this time to bring pleasant temperatures, with average highs ranging from 24°C to 28°C (75°F to 82°F) and lows around 18°C to 21°C (64°F to 70°F).
However, this is also peak season, with not only backpackers but also Peruvians visiting for their summer holidays.
As a result, popular attractions and accommodations are often more crowded, and prices are usually higher compared to other times of the year.
If you prefer fewer crowds and more affordable options, you may want to consider visiting during the shoulder seasons, which are the months of April to June and September to November.
During these periods, the weather is still pleasant – usually with overcast mornings and clear blue skies in the afternoons.
Is Paracas worth visiting
Yes, this charming Peruvian beach town is definitely worth visiting.
As you may have guessed by this point, there is excellent nature, unique landscapes, stunning beaches, exhilarating activities, fantastic food – the list goes on.
Being just a few hours away from the capital city of Peru, it’s a must-visit for anyone visiting the country.
How much does it cost?
Visiting Paracas in Peru is fairly inexpensive given what’s on offer, however, it really depends on your travel style.
Below are some rough daily costs:
- Accommodation: £10-£200
- Transport to and from Lima: £20-£30
- Activities: £20-£150
- Food: £10-£40
Overall, you can expect to pay £60 per day (including accommodation) if you’re a budget traveller.
If you prefer luxurious stays with fine dining and high-end activities, then you could be looking at £420 per day.
Typically, people travel from north to south of Peru and like to make Huacachina their next stop on their itinerary.
If you’re heading the other way or you’re heading to Cusco, then Lima will be your next stop and you’ll need to take the bus.
Check prices: Busbud
Paracas to Huacachina
If you’re heading to Huacachina, then you can either take the bus or a taxi.
Both take around an hour and the only difference is the cost.
Taking a taxi should cost you no more than 120 soles – which if there is a group of you – is quite inexpensive and gives you much more flexibility with your schedule.
Discover more of Peru
If you enjoyed reading about Paracas in Peru then we’ve got plenty more guides to help you discover this diverse and truly magical country.
If you’re looking for a super straightforward plan to follow, then this Peru itinerary is perfect.
For anything else, simply navigate to the menu and select Peru or use the search bar to find what you’re looking for.
Stay Wild Travels.
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