The Paracas Reserve, Islas Ballestas, and the Nazca Lines are three stellar but often overlooked Peru destinations. Located several hours south of Lima, the marine wildlife and archeological mysteries of these 3 sites withstand the harsh Peruvian desert. Here, azure waters crash against eroded rocky outposts, which separate sea from endless expanses of burnt orange sands streaked with burgundy hues.
The Paracas National Reserve covers more than 700,000 acres, including most of the Paracas Peninsula, and is home to an abundance of avian species. Flamingos, pelicans, condors, and penguins all call Paracas home. According to Peruvian folklore, it was the red-and-white Paracas flamingo that inspired the design of Peru’s flag.
The Reserve—the first protected marine area in Peru—is full of lagoons and rocky caves, and has paths to several small fishing villages. There is a great lookout point, called Mirador de Lobos, which offers spectacular views of the massive sea lion colony below.
Slightly to the north of the Reserve are the famous Islas Ballestas, a series of rocky protrusions renowned for their resident bird colonies. The only way to visit is via a boat tour, which takes visitors surprisingly close to the wildlife (although no one is actually allowed on the islands, due to their protection status). The tuxedoed Humboldt penguins are always a crowd pleaser, although the playful and curious sea lions vie for second place.
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Travel a bit inland to experience the Nazca Lines. From the ground they’re not overly impressive, but from the air they’ll take your breath away. Etched over an expanse of 310 square miles, these mysterious lines continue to baffle archaeologists. The largest figures measure nearly 600 feet across and depict animals such as a lizard, hummingbird, and monkey. Experts believe ancient civilizations created the lines sometime between 900 BC and 600 AD—although no one has any idea why or how.
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Have we convinced you yet? Speak to a Destination Expert about curating a tailor made Peru itinerary just for you, or check out our most popular Machu Picchu & Peru Tours tours here.
Thanks to MaRu180 for the title image of this blog.