Amazing 3-day Trip
We booked the 3-day Paracas, Ica & Nazca private tour from Lima. I exchanged emails with Corina several months ahead of time, and we used paypal to pay the 50% deposit. The remaining balance was paid in cash to our tour guide, Oscar.
Oscar and his brother, Anibal, picked us up at our hotel in Lima at 7:45 a.m., and we eventually traveled south on the Panamericana highway. It was so interesting to see how the terrain changed as we continued south. Oscar provided us with lots of information on what we were seeing and told us about the earthquake in Pisco.
We drove along the shore in Pisco, and the water was gorgeous – blue/green. Wooden boats were hauled out along the roadside with tons of seabirds flying and milling about. This would be a great spot to do a quick photo stop.
We arrived in Paracas at 11:30. Rather than stop for lunch, we decided to visit the nature reserve first. Wow – it is so beautiful there! It’s one big desert with mountains of sand around the area. There were lots of dune buggy caravans rolling along the roadway, as well as many bicyclists. I’ll stick to the car. We stopped at various miradors throughout the reserve: Cathedral Rock, Red Beach, and saw fossils. So stunning! There were rugged cliffs of sand towering over the beach and plenty of seabirds. In one stop, a stone walkway had cracked away because of the instability of the land after the earthquake. This reserve definitely did not disappoint!
We checked into our hotel and had the rest of the day free.
Day 2. We met Oscar at 7:45, and we walked to the port to meet our Ballestas Islands boat. The port closest to the hotel is nice and new, but has been closed since covid. The older port is a little further down the beach. The lighting was great for taking photos of the boats moored out in the water. Oscar got us checked in, and we waited for our group’s turn to step on the pier, lining up 2×2.
Our boat was the Guanay. It seats 45 people and had a cover to shade us from the sun. Oscar advised us to sit on the left-hand side for better views. We cruised from the port, and it was a glorious day. Our first sighting was Candelabra. This is a Nazca Lines figure visible from the water — the shape of a candelabra is etched in the sand.
The Ballestas Islands came into view. They remind me of the Farallon Islands. They are rock outcroppings splattered with guano. Some are more fragrant than others. This is a huge haven for bird life. We saw tons of varieties of birds, and beautiful rock formations and arches. This is considered Peru’s Galapagos Islands. We saw sea lions hauled up on the rocks. Our guide says these sea lions like to eat live birds. Yikes! Glad we didn’t see them feasting! There were a few babies and males barking. So cool. Most of them were sleeping but occasionally one would pop its head up for us. We found a group of Humboldt penguins standing on the rocks. Eventually a bunch of them worked their way down and jumped into the water. I love penguins! These live here year-round.
We returned back to the pier. Oscar found us, and escorted us back to the hotel where we checked out. We loaded up the car and headed to Ica. We passed vineyards and crops, which surprised me. You don’t expect that in the middle of the desert. The water table is good here.
We arrived in Ica around 11:30 and drove to the sand dunes. We could see tiny figures climbing up the big dunes. They kind of looked like penguins from a distance. Huacachina Oasis was here. It’s a natural oasis with a pond fed by a spring. Oscar said the water is down quite a bit. It looked beautiful and out of place.
A private dune buggy ride was next. We followed Oscar and climbed through the sand to get to the dune buggy starting point. We had great views of the oasis and could see more people climbing various dunes. We met our driver, Caesar, and climbed aboard the big green dune buggy. It can carry nine passengers, so it was great that it was just us, Oscar, and Caesar. The best spot to sit in is the front, so that’s where we climbed.
We set off, racing across the sand. We climbed dunes, circling around them. Uh oh. It’s a steep drop! We sped off the cliff of the dune and back up to another. We repeated this throughout the drive. I screamed occasionally and tried to get video and photos of our wild adventure. We did a few photo stops, and climbed back out of the buggy.
We skipped riding the sand board down the dune. I’m chicken. Plus the sand was super hot. We continued racing through the dunes and returned to our starting point. Ahhh … great fun!
We enjoyed lunch at the restaurant.
We rejoined Oscar and Anibal and hit the road for Nazca. This was a 3-hour drive. The landscape continued to be very desert-like with lot of sand mountains. We stopped at the tower viewing platform to see some of the nearby Nazca Lines. This platform was about five stories high and built by the Japanese. I slowly trudged up the stairs. Can’t miss seeing the lines! There were a number of figures right by us – the lizard, tree, and hands. It’s amazing to see these giant sand etchings in person. It’s a shame that the Panamericana Highway runs right through the tail of the lizard.
We arrived in Nazca and checked into our hotel. The remainder of the evening was free.
Day 3. Oscar and Anibal picked us up at 8:45, and we drove to the airport … aka airstrip. It has a 1 km runway, so no large planes allowed. Oscar gave us a small drawing of the various Nazca Line creatures, and explained what they were and in what order we would see them on our flight.
Oscar checked us in for the flight with Movilair, and we showed our passports. We waited around in the chairs and eventually had to step on the scale. They must distribute the weight of passengers properly throughout the aircraft. Originally Oscar said we should expect to wait until about 10:30 for our flight. He kept us updated with what was going on. The plan was for us to go on a 12-passenger plane with another group. We passed the time and visited the souvenir stands.
Before covid times, it would often take 5 hours to get your scenic flight. Finally they called us at around 11:00, and we went through security screening. Then we stood in the waiting area hoping for our turn. Planes can leave every six minutes for the scenic flight. Years ago there was a mid-air collision, so they take safety precautions seriously.
Finally – it was our turn. We followed our pilot and copilot to our aircraft, a cute orange and white number. We were turned lose to take photographs but we had to remain within the ‘circle’. We posed for and took photos.
We boarded the airplane and were in the second row behind the pilots. We buckled up, the engines started, and soon we were rolling along the tarmac. We raced down the runway and were up in the sky in no time. What a beautiful day and such views! Oscar warned us to keep a close watch for the whale Nazca Line figure. He says many guests miss seeing it.
Our pilots were very good about letting us know which figures we could see by calling our ‘right side’ or ‘left side’ and gave a countdown to when the figure would be visible. Very helpful! I saw quite a few of the lines and took turns using my Canon and iPhone for photos. At one point, my camera wouldn’t focus properly. It liked photographing the window, rather than what was on the other side of it. I cursed a little and began using my phone more often.
It was so cool seeing the monkey; he’s my favorite of the Nazca Lines. He has 4 fingers on one hand and 5 fingers on the other. The number 9 has some sort of significance to the Nazca people. We were supposed to view the following: whale, astronaut, monkey, dog, hummingbird, condor, flower, spider, heron, pelican, parrot, tree, and hands. I’ll have to check my photos to see if I saw them all. I know I missed a few.
It was cool flying over the viewing tower we visited yesterday. It was so tiny and looked like a toy. The highway stretched across the landscape, and I could also see the three Nazca Lines figures on the edge of the road.
The pilot dipped the plane to the right and left to help us get decent views and photos. Such fun! Too soon the flight was over, and we all exited the plan. Shake out those sea legs! We received a little certificate of congratulations.
By now it was noon. Renee and I grabbed an ice cream bar, and it was time to hit the road back to Lima. Oscar warned us it would be a 6-hour drive from Nazca to Lima. It certainly was a long day of driving, riding, and sitting.
We stopped for lunch around 2:30 at Tacama Winery. To get there we drove down a narrow, dusty road. Fields of asparagus were planted along with the vineyards. What a beautiful setting. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and winery at an outdoor table. For lunch we enjoyed their local bread with a few spreads and shared an order of tequeños with cheese. I had the chicken Milanese meal with fries and a salad. Renee had the causa. Good stuff.
A tour of the winery was included in our package, but we needed to move on. We cruised and cruised, with the guys taking turns driving. We finally got to Lima around 7:30, but it took an hour or so getting across town to the airport. Anibal dropped us at the international check-in terminal, and Oscar helped us with our bags. Thanks for an incredible three days guys!!