RENTING A BICYCLE
We’ve laid out four ways of visiting the national park (which include tours) in another guide if you haven’t made your mind up yet.
But if you’ve decided you would prefer to do it without a tour and biking is the way for you then great, the first step is renting one in town.
Renting is simple and most of the tour companies in town will have bikes outside for you to test. Bike rental for the day should be no more than 25 soles. Always make sure to give the tires, brakes, and gears a good test before you take it out for the day. You don’t want to be stranded in the desert after all.
The park is mostly flat roads but there are a couple of uphill climbs where good working gears will save your legs. Ask for or rent a lock from the company so that you can secure your bike up when stopping at the beaches in the park.
We suggest renting your bike the night before heading into the desert. This allows you to get up, head out early and avoid spending too much time in the midday sun. The desert heat isn’t an issue as there’s a constant ocean breeze, but this breeze can reduce the perceived intensity of the sun which will burn you if you’re not careful. Make sure you take strong sun cream and top up throughout the day.
An alternative is to head out later in the day (around 3-4 PM) and stay in the park until sunset.
If you decide to do this just make sure you leave enough time to get back when there’s still light. Riding back along the main highway into town with no lights will be dangerous. The area is one of the biggest salt reserves in Peru which means heavy goods vehicles are passing frequently.
WHAT ARE THE BEST ROUTES?
We’ve detailed three routes for you here: two short routes with less time on the bike and a longer route with a whole day on the bike and ticking off every sight in the park.
We’ve also made a basic map to give you a better idea of the routes to take – just click the button at at the bottom of each part.
The best sights in the park are:
- Playa Roja (Red Sand Beach)
- Playa Supay
- Playa Yumaque
- La Catedral
Entrance fee to the park is 11 soles and can be paid at a checkpoint along the main road leading into the park. If you are out early enough then there might not be anyone manning the point so just head through and maybe pay them on the way back.
PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE BIKE ROUTE 1
Three stops is enough for a half-day activity. The best way of navigating the park is to star all of these places into google maps and use your phone to guide you.
The three stops are:
- Playa Roja (Red Sand Beach)
- Playa Mina
From the town of Paracas, it’s around a 15-minute cycle along the main road before you reach the checkpoint for the park.
Pay your fee and carry onwards. Once you start heading up a hill with the Paracas museum on your right this is your indication to take a turn soon. At the top of the hill, the path will split with all the trucks and lorries continuing along the highway. Take the left along the dirt road Ruta a Lagunillas (you should see a sign pointing the way).
After about another 10 minutes of riding take the left fork again up the hill to a viewing platform (Mirador Istmo) for a great view of the entire desert.
After that, follow the signs to Playa Roja for a nice enjoyable downhill ride.
Stop 1 - Playa Roja (Red Sand Beach)
The beach gets its unique colour from the minerals in the cliffs that are worn away by the crashing waves which then wash them up onto the beach.
Unfortunately, you can’t set foot on the beach here as it’s protected. However, if you come off the dirt road and up onto the cliffs before riding down the hill you can get a great view of the entire beach stretching along the coast.
Take a quick stop on the corner before turning off to Lagunillas and look back on Playa Roja for another epic view of the desert cliffs jutting out into the sea .
Stop 2 - Lagunillas
Although it feels close, just across the water from the Red Sand Beach, you have to follow the road round in a half loop to reach it so it takes a while to get there.
There’s a handful of restaurants here, with a couple on the water for a nice place to eat.
Try either La Tia Fela or Sol de Oro. There’s also a short walk up to a viewpoint at the edge of the outcrop of land. If you aren’t ready for lunch or a break yet, then you can head on through to Playa Mina first and do this on the way back.
Stop 3 - Playa Mina
You’ve got a bit of an uphill slog to get to Playa Mina, but it will be worth it.
Once you arrive, there should be a parking attendant and you can lock your bikes up against the railings.
Head down to the beautiful sandy beach and take a dip in the sea to cool off after that tough bike ride. When you’ve had your fill of the sun and beach, hop back on the bike and enjoy the downhill ride back to Lagunillas.
If you didn’t have lunch then now is the time, or you can head straight back to Paracas and jump in the pool at your hostel instead. When heading back, instead of trying to slog back up the hill next to red sand beach, take the left fork before you reach it for a flatter, easier ride.
PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE BIKE ROUTE 2
This route takes you further into the park just in a different direction. The stops are:
- Playa Roja
- Playa Yumaque
- La Catedral
- Playa Supay
Follow the same route into the park as mentioned in the above route, but once you’ve been to the viewpoint at Mirador Itsmo and Playa Roja, turn around and follow the road to the left instead of following along the road next to Playa Roja.
Once you see the signs for the beach you can either stop for a quick dip or just take photos of the amazing views of the coastline stretching far into the distance.
What was once a huge rock arch dipping into the ocean, is now a slightly less impressive rock island. The arch was destroyed by an earthquake in 2007 but it’s still another great viewpoint on the route.
For more epic views of the desert coastline and yellow sand beaches, you can head to Playa Supay but there isn’t that much else going on.
From here you can either return via the route you came, or just head back along the highway to town.
PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE FULL BIKE ROUTE 3
If you’re keen to see everything then here’s a full route.
Instead of following the route we mentioned before into the park, take the other main road, Rutas a Salinas all the way along until Playa Supay.
It’s a bit of a stretch but it will be easier as you’re on the tarmac and you will have got the hard part out of the way first and early in the day. Then make your way back along the coastline and stop at each of the places on the way that takes your fancy.
This means you can also stop at Playa Roja on the way back and from there decide your next steps.
If you fancy having lunch in the park then carry on biking along to Lagunillas, but if not, just head back to town. We think this route is the best for seeing everything most efficiently, it just means more miles on the bike.
WHAT TO BRING
Riding your bike in the desert all day is certainly a workout. A few things are essential:
- Phone with google maps or maps.me – make sure to star all these places on your map so you don’t get lost
- Sun cream Factor 50 – keep slapping it on throughout the day. The desert sun is intense and the reflection off the yellow sand makes it even stronger.
- Hat/cap – keep the sun off the back of your neck or head
- Snood / Sunglasses – the desert wind can whip up sand when it gets strong so keep it out of your face and eyes with a snood and some glasses. The snood also doubles up as a great neck protector from the sun
- 1-2L of water – biking will take it out of you so stay hydrated. You can buy extra water at Lagunillas or Playa Mina if you go there.
- Swimsuits and flip-flops – for jumping onto the beaches and in the sea. It’s nice to have a change from normal shoes to flip flops so they don’t get sandy. Also cycling in flip flops is not a clever idea.
- As already mentioned, take a factor 50 sun cream and apply throughout the day.
- Bring a minimum of 1L of water with you to stay hydrated, you will be doing a fair bit of cycling but there are restaurants in the park where you can buy more
- Stick to the outside of the lane on the highway as you are going into the park as this is a road used mainly by large trucks for transporting goods. Once you’re in the park it becomes dirt roads and there’s hardly any cars or trucks around.
- Download google maps and save all the places we mention in this post offline, so you don’t get lost in the park
- There wasn’t any safety guidance (in English or Spanish) that we could see at the beaches. If you do decide to go for a dip, keep to the shallows as we have no idea what the currents are like.
If you have decided that renting a bicycle isn’t for you then we’ve highlighted 3 other ways to explore the park.
And, if you are looking for accommodation in Paracas or for how to find the best Ballestas Islands tour, our guide has everything you need.