Paracas, also known as El Chaco, is a small port town in the Pisco province of southern Peru, about 4 hours south of Lima. The town is an ideal departure point for the Ballestas Islands (sometimes called the “Peruvian Galápagos”) and the enormous Paracas National Reserve, a gorgeous desert peninsula which acts as a protected area for wildlife and is an important archaeological zone as well.
Here you’ll find everything you need to know about the scenic little beach town of Paracas and its surrounding area. You’ll learn about its history, what to do there, when to visit and what to bring, along with some important safety tips. Keep reading to find out more.
With its location on the coast only 250 km from Peru’s capital city of Lima, it’s quite easy to get to Paracas. There are numerous bus companies running daily connections to Paracas and other nearby towns. Make sure to visit our Transportation Tips page for more information.
Paracas has an unbelievable amount of things to do. Favorite activities include ATVing, paragliding, cycling, catamaran sailing and more. Of course, you also could always just lay on the beach, taking in the sun and enjoying the amazing natural beauty.
Often referred to as the “Peruvian Galápagos,” the Ballestas Islands are an area of great biological diversity and beautify scenery. No trip to the region would be complete without a tour of these islands.
For starkly gorgeous landscapes and otherworldly scenes, you’ve got to head to the Paracas National Reserve, the point where one of the driest deserts in the world meets the Pacific Ocean. Don’t forget your camera!
The area around Paracas was once home to the Paracas culture, an important prehistoric civilization that existed between approximately 800 BCE and 200 BCE. The Paracas culture is especially recognized for its intricately-woven textiles, characteristic artwork, and advances in irrigation technology.
Some of the most significant discoveries related to the Paracas culture were originally unearthed at Cerro Colorado near the modern-day entrance of the Paracas National Reserve, including the intact necropolis of Wari Kayan. Those interested in history or archaeology should not miss the Julio C. Tello Site Museum (named for the Peruvian archaeologist who discovered the site). This museum can easily be visited during day trips to the Paracas National Reserve.
Another must-see attraction for fans of history is the mysterious Paracas Candelabra. This massive geoglyph, which faces out to the Paracas Bay from the coast, was made in the same style as the famous Nazca lines and depicts what appears to be a type of candelabra or chandelier. Theories about its origins abound, with responsibility being attributed to the ancient Paracas Culture, the revolutionary Jose de San Martín, 19th century pirates and, of course, aliens. If you want to see this enigmatic piece of art, most tours to the Ballestas Islands pass the Paracas Candelabra for a photo and quick explanation.
Legend has it that the Argentine liberator and Peruvian national hero José de San Martín was going over military strategies underneath a palm tree in the Paracas bay and fell asleep. During his slumber, he was dreaming and visualizing various possible national flags. When he awoke, he saw a group of parihuanas (flamingos) with intense red and white colors, and it was then that the colors of the Peruvian flag were chosen. While this tale may or may not be myth, it’s true that flamingos are a common sight on the Paracas peninsula–make sure to visit the Paracas National Reserve to see them!
Any time of year is a good time to visit Paracas! With its convenient location only 4 hours from Lima, Paracas is popular year-round with both foreign travelers and vacationing Peruvians.
The temperature in Paracas varies little throughout the year. While it’s true that the summer months of January through March are generally sunnier and hotter than the rest of the year, Paracas maintains a pleasant, mild climate even during the winter months, with very little precipitation.
The main weather phenomena of concern to travelers are the infamous Paracas sandstorms. The name of Paracas itself actually refers to these storms: the word is derived from a Quechua phrase meaning “sand rain.” During these quick-moving storms, winds are high and visibility is greatly reduced. Most shops close up during these storms and it can sometimes affect tours, but don’t worry–the storms usually pass quickly.