Exploring Ica, Peru: Paracas, the Ballesta Islands, and Huacachina

While I was planning my trip to Peru, I happened to recall a photo I had seen on a friend’s instagram years ago from Paracas. The reason this stood out to me was because of the fantastic desert landscape. After a couple quick searched, I realized this was actually a very feasible day trip from Lima. Better yet I had come to find that the company Peru hop  (through viator) actually organizes this tour into one amazing jam packed, incredible day. They also do multi-day tours which I would have 100% have done if I had a bit more time because you can use their services to get to Cusco and see everything in between and then even go as far as La Paz! Well, I can tell you one thing for sure, I will certainly be using Peru Hop again in the future for one of their longer bus trips.

IMG_4335
Paracas, Ica, Peru

The tour I booked first stopped in Paracas in the Ica region, which is basically the gateway to get to the Ballesta Islands. Prior to this tour I had honestly never heard about this island grouping. Well, turns out it is sort of referred to as the poor man’s version of the Galapagos. This is because you have the ability to see similar animals such as penguins, sea lions, and other birds. Afterwards you had a little bit of time in Paracas (which was all the time you needed anyways) and then headed onward to Huacachina.

This part was the main reason why I had booked the tour. Huacachina is this tiny little town/oasis tucked right in the middle of the desert. Literally there is a tiny little lake surrounded by basically a double horseshoe of restaurants, shops, and hostels. The rest is surrounded by massive sand dunes which kind of surround the town and truly gives it that oasis vibe. The final thing included on the door was the opportunity for a dune buggy ride through the desert and sand boarding, all of which did not disappoint one bit.

The bus picked me up from my hotel nice and early around 6am and we began our ride to Paracas. The coach bus was very nice and I have to say the ride was quite scenic, so even though I kind of wanted to sleep I was unable to.

IMG_4365
Huacachina, Ica, Peru

The other thing I personally liked about the tour was that the guides were there to explain everything on the way, show you where to go, and basically set everything up, however, for  the most part, once you got off the bus you were low key on you own. I know some people probably wouldn’t enjoy this as much but I really liked the sort of independent nature of the tour yet at the same time having that group feel.

So once we got off the bus in Paracas our guide showed where to go to get to the dock for the boat tour, made some recommendations for food, explained our meeting point and time and then sent us on our way.

After the very short walk to the dock, we boarded our speed boats and set out in search of penguins and sea lions. It was an amazing experience being able to see these animals in the wild and I am still not over the fact that I saw penguins in the wild life. The whole boat ride lasted about 45 minutes total, and afterward we had probably another 45 minutes to shop, get food or just walk around.

I wasn’t feeling super hungry so I stopped by a little smoothie place the guide recommended, which was also very close to the meeting spot, and enjoyed some time in the shade with a nice little view of the street before continuing on to Huacachina.

Huacachina was unlike anything I  had ever experienced before– however this could be because I’ve never been to a desert before. To put into perspective to what extent this truly was a desert oasis, our bus was only allowed to drive in so far and we had to walk into town the rest of the way and the sand dunes surrounding the tiny town seemed more like mountains.

IMG_4395
Huacachina, Ica, Peru

Once we arrived we had 45 minutes to an hour before meeting up again for sand boarding. I chose to walk the horseshoe of shops and restaurants around where the little lake was and then finally was stopped by some other people who were on the tour with me who invited me to eat with them.

Afterward we walked over to our meeting spot where we were separated into our groups for the dune buggy ride and sand boarding. Once we were situated we actually had to walk up the massive sand hill, which was much more difficult than it appeared, to where our dune buggies were waiting for us.

Once again, this experience was completely out of this world! Honestly all my expectations were 100% exceeded in every way. The experience was thrilling yet beautifully breathtaking and all and all just left me unable to stop smiling.

I feel like when you book excursions like this you never really know what you’re getting yourself into until you’re actually on that tour. Well in this case, I wasn’t sure if it was just going to be a quick dune buggy ride or just one hill to sand board down or what the desert was actually going to look like.

Well, once we were zooming around the buggies up and down the massive hills it’s truly fascinating how that desert feels like it just goes on and on forever. As well, the whole dune buggy and sand-boarding part lasted until sunset (which was amazing) so I would say between 1.5- 2 hrs.

IMG_4412
Huacachina, Ica, Peru

The tour ended with watching the sunset in the desert and honestly, I am certain that is what it would look like going to heaven.

So as you can tell— I would 100% recommend this tour and like I said, when I travel back to Peru in the future I intend on using Peru Hop’s multi day tour from Lima to get to Machu Picchu and hopefully I will even be able to get as far as La Paz, Bolivia.

I think it’s safe to say this tour was the highlight of my trip and it was so wonderful to have been able to squeeze all of this into one day- especially since my trip was already short to begin with.

Enjoy the rest of your day!!

Xx hann

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s