Check out our adventure in Peru and discover the top things you can not miss around Lima and the South Coast
"You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream". - L. Brown
Our itinerary in a nutschell
27/08/2019: Islas Ballestas - Huacachina (Ica desert) - Nazca lines
Lima (2 days)
Arriving to Lima from Italy can be a very long and exhausting journey, but despite the last 13 hours of flights without sleeping we arrive to Lima international airport around 5 pm still keeping some energy to plan at least one activity for the day: the water and light show at Cicuito Magico del Agua (http://www.circuitomagicodelagua.com.pe).
After a quick technical stop to the hotel, we head to the La Victoria district to Parque de la Reserva, a green park hosting a complex of 13 fountains where music, water and laser lights are mixed to display a lovely show representing some of the Perù the top attractions.
Visitors can access the park by paying a very honest ticket (4 Soles) enjoying a pleasant walk in the park where it is also possible to grab some good street food along the path; we opt for a chicken burger with fries sold by a funny family who attempt to convince us to try the famous "chicha morada", the typical beverage from the Andean regions of Perù. The base ingredient of the drink is a Peruvian variety of purple corn, boiled in water along with pineapple peels and pieces of quince..
Our show starts at 8:15 pm at the Fantasy Fountain. This choice is definetely the best way to start our Peruvian adventure; laser lights create in the water all the iconic images linked to our upcoming trip, from Nazca lines to the flight of condors to the Inca's site of Macchu Picchu.. absolutely not to miss.
Booking in advance it is not required and you can get your tickets directly at the main gate of the park where there are small but efficient ticket offices
We suggest you to be there at least 30 minutes before the start of the show just in case there is a bit of crowd at the gate
The show takes place every day from Tuesday to Sunday at different timings
In case you need a taxi from/to your hotel, ensure to contact an"official" taxi driver because the area is full of unauthorized taxi. It is also suggested to negotiate the fare rate in advance.
The following day we start our visit from Miraflores district, one of the most rich and touristic area of Lima, full of restaurants, hotels and shops. The district is located on the seafront in the South side of Lima where a modern promenade runs along the Ocean with some nice spots to take pictures above the cliffs. For the fitness lovers there are free gym facilities along the promenade.
Our first leg is the "Parque del Amor" a small park built around a big sculpure representing two lovers hugging each other in front of the sea and surrounded by a small colorful wall very similar to the Gaudi's style of Park Guell in Barcelona, with romantic poems composed by Peruvian artists. The access to the park is free and during sunny days the park offers nice views over the Ocean and the coastline; unfortunately during our stay the so called "garua" (drizzle) never left the city, anyway we enjoyed the walk.
If you have some extra free time and you are interested to learn something about the pre-Inca cultures, a nice stop not so far from here is "Huaca Pucclana", an archaeological site dating between the years of 200 AD and 700 AD linked to a sacred place. It is a great adobe and clay pyramid built from seven staggered platforms.
It is also possible to admire part of the external walls from the street without buying the ticket.
Anyway the best place to discover the historical core of Lima is undoubtely "Plaza de Armas", also known as "Plaza Mayor". During 16th century this space was the hearth of the settlement founded by Francisco Pizarro and also today many important buildings such as the Government Palace, the City Hall, the Archbishop’s Palace and the Cathedral flank the 140 squared meter square. Unfortunately nowaday not one of the original buildings remain but the overall charm of the place is not under discussion.
The Cathedral of Lima stands in the South-East corner of the square, exactly in the same plot of land that Pizarro designated for the first church of the settlement in 1535, but due to the various earthquakes its shape and style has been rebuild several times.
The inside of the cathedral is nice (especially the chapel dedicated to Francisco Pizarro and his remainings), but if you have few time to be spent here we simply suggest you to have a walk around the place, take some shots of the facades and wander around the colorful shops of this block.
Not far from Plaza de Armas there is a beautiful church we can not miss: the Monasterio de San Francisco. Unfortunately it is not permitted to take photos or video inside, but you can have an idea of the complex visiting the site http://museocatacumbas.com/visitacatacumbas/.
The main attraction of the church are the crypts , a series of underground vaults built under the chapels and used until the early 19th century. Visitors can walk in the catacombs where thousands of skulls, tibias and other bones are grouped in the pits. However the catacombs are not the only thing to see in this complex: inside the church there is a very uncommon version of the "Last Supper" painting. This Peruvian version includes a cuy (the guinea pig) as the main course.. really unique.
Last but not least, inside the church there is a stunning Library with approximately 25.000 ancient books.
After the visit we decide to have a quick lunch in Plaza de Armas before leaving the city. Our choice is the Sangucheria El Chinito (https://elchinito.com.pe/), a traditional place where we can taste some local specialities like the Chicharron.. absolutely to try!
Generally speaking, having lunch or dinner in Perù is really cheap compared to Europe and portions are really generous. Most of the time we shared one course in two also to try different specialties.
Our next leg will be Paracas, approx. 3 hours drive from Lima, direction South.
The next day we wake up early and we head to the small touristic harbour (Marina) of Paracas for the first activity of the day: the boat tour to the Ballestas Islands, also known as the "Poor Man's Galapagos".
Standard tours last 2 hours and there are multiple visits every day from 8 am
Tickets can be bought directly at the Marina where several tour operators offer every day similar experiences; it is not possible to visit these protected islands autonomously therefore we suggest you to book your tour in advance, especially if you want to catch the first boat of the day (like in our case), where usually you can find the calmest seas and best wildlife-viewing
Depending on the weather conditions we suggest you to bring with you some pills for seasickness as well as a hat to protect you from the sun and from the Guano (bird droppings)
None of the small boats has a cabin, so be prepared to wear technical dress to protect you against the wind.
The small harbour offers nice opportunities to take some shots of the traditional fishing boats, all of them reporting the colorful writing "Pisco", most of them crowded of giant Cormorants.
Few minutes after the departure, the speedboat stops offshore to admire the famous Candelabra Geoglyph, a giant figure carved into the sandy hills more than 150 meters high and 50 meters wide which can be seen from very far. Because the arid climate of this area and the position of this geoglyph shielded from the winds, it survived for very long time, probably more than 2000 years old.
Like Nazca geoglyphs it is still not totally clear what purpose it served for anyway the mistery is of course part of the beauty.. you will find for sure someone ready to tell you about some strange theories linked to extraterrestrials..
After this short stop, the boat continues the journey to the small, rocky islands forming the Ballestas Islands protected area; wildlife become now the protagonist!
How to take good shots:
On the boat it is not important to sit on one side or the other because the captain skillfully maneuver the boat trying to show the animals from both sides
It is preferable instead to sit from the middle to the back of the boat, where the small windows do not create an obstacle for your camera
Generally speaking you can take some nice shots even with your mobile, but some animals like penguins tent to stay on top of the rocks and a camera with a good zoom is preferable (in our case we used Nikon 55-200mm VR lens).
The last part of the tour reaches the side of the island where is possible to see some Guano extraction facilities. The Peruvian government still extracts Guano because it's a great natural fertilizer used in agriculture. The most common guano-producing birds in this area are the Cormorants, Peruvian boobies and Pelicans.
At 10 am our boat arrives on time back to the Paracas harbour, where we hop on our car direction Ica desert.
The road from Paracas to the Ica desert it is not particularly scenographic, however 4 km far from Ica direction South-West there is a “must do“ stop for all the tourists who want to have some fun before completing the journey to Arequipa: Huacachina Oasis.
Huacachina is a tiny village built around a small natural lake in the desert; the legend holds that once upon a time the oasis was created when a beautiful princess decided to take a bath but after looking in her mirror she saw a hunter behind her. Alarmed by this vision, she run away leaving behind her mirror which turned into the small lake, while her mantle became the surrounding sand dunes.
Here it is possible to spend some funny hours practicing Sandboarding or renting a Dune-buggy ride (Tubolares) with an expert pilot for half an hour of pure thrill. Don’t forget sun protection and a hat because here the sun can be very hot!
The place is very touristic therefore we do not suggest to spend one night here, unless you want to take some shots at sunset from the dunes.
After 2 hours drive we arrive to Nazca late in the afternoon, reaching the Mirador spotting place on the Panamericana Sur road.
From this old tower (you need to pay 2 Soles to climb on the top) it is possible to have a rough idea about the famous Nazca lines spotting 3 geoglyphs: the hands, the tree and part of the lizard. This last geoglyph has been partially destroyed during the construction of the main road and unfortunately the tower do not offer an ideal view.
At the time of our trip, a new observation tower is under construction on the other side of the road. Higher (and hopefully more stable) it should offer a best view of these 3 lines, anyway the best way to discover the area remains to take part of a touristic the flight.
Several companies offer flight opportunities, of course we suggest you to opt for an experienced operator like Aeroparacas or similar.
The Nazca lines remain a big mistery and today there is not a final theory to explain who and why inhabitants of this area created in the ground these figures more than 2000 years ago.
To discover more about these place, have a look to our posts and stories dedicated to Peru dated August/September 2019 on our Instagram page @2intour
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