HOW TO VISIT PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE – 4 DIFFERENT WAYS

The striking coastal desert of Peru should be on every adventure seeker and nature lovers bucket list. Exploring this breath-taking landscape can be done in several ways from renting a bicycle or moped, to booking a guided tour. Our guide covers all 4 so you can decide which works best for you.

HOW TO VISIT PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE

Paracas National Reserve is a protected area, spanning over 3,350 km² that consists of rolling desert, jagged ocean cliffs and rocky islands populated with diverse wildlife.  

 

The entrance to the national park is a 10-minute drive from the town and you have four different options for visiting and exploring it:

 

  • Renting a bicycle
  • Renting a moped or car
  • A guided tour with transport into the park
  • An ATV or buggy tour

Below is a breakdown of each option along with our thoughts on the advantages and disadvantages of each.

CYCLING IN PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
More freedom to exploreNo escape from the sun
Cheapest optionA lot more effort
Can go anywhere you like and stay in places longerNo knowledge or information from a local guide

You can rent a bike from a lot of places in town. It should cost you no more than 25 soles for 24 hours rental. Just check the tires, brakes and gears before you head out as you will have a couple of hills to deal with.

 

From the town, you can simply follow the highway south until you reach the national park. Just be sure to stick to the side of the road as it is mainly used by heavy goods vehicles.

 

Once you’re in the park you can cycle to the Red Sand Beach (Playa Roja) which should take no longer than 20 minutes or further to La Catedral.  We’ve gone into more detail on potential routes and places of interest (with maps) if this is the option for you.

 

We suggest leaving early in the day if you go for this option, around 7 or 8 AM to make sure you aren’t out in the midday desert heat for too long. Don’t worry too much about being hot though as the ocean breeze keeps you nice and cool, worry more about sunburn. One downside to consider is, if you want to visit all the sites such as Red Sand Beach and La Catedral, this will mean a long day and a lot of distance on the bike so make sure you are fit enough.

RENTING A MOPED OR CAR IN PARACAS

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
More freedom to exploreMost expensive option
No effort requiredCan't go everywhere that buggies of ATVs can go
Can go anywhere you like and stay in places longerNo knowledge or information from a local guide

Similar to renting a bicycle, this option will give you the most freedom.

 

You will also save a lot more time as you won’t have to be busting a lung pedalling on a bike and you can stay out of the sun if you have a car.

 

Because of the time saved, you can spend more time at the sights or beaches in the park. The only downside of this option is the cost but if you can afford it it’s the way to go. If you can find a few people in your hostel to split the cost with then even better!

 

Playa Roja Tours rent mopeds and bikes and have solid reviews.

 

We don’t know of anywhere in the town renting cars personally but drop us a comment at the bottom of the article if you find one.

BOOKING A GUIDED TOUR TO PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Low effortNo freedom to explore
Meet other peopleLimited amount of time at sights
Learn from a local guideMid level cost

A guided tour will help you tick off all the sights of the national park such as Red Sand Beach and watching the sunset along the coast.

 

Most tours start from around $15 and last 4 hours. Find Local Trips and Get Your Guide detail some tours you can choose from. 

 

If you followed our Paracas guide and stayed at Kokopelli hostel, then they also have an inhouse travel agency running tours that are a bit cheaper. This option is also a great way to meet people from the hostel.

 

The tour will last about 3 hours and you’ll be picked up around 3 PM, the sunset is at approximately 6 PM all year round. You’ll be taken into the national park on a minibus and the driver will drop your group and the guide off and you’ll set off on the tour. You’ll hike for around 1.5 hours across the dunes, stopping at the Red Sand Beach and La Catedral, or what remains of it – the cliff arch collapsed into the sea after an earthquake a few years ago but it’s still an impressive place. The first part of the hike is up the dunes and from there you’ll be skirting the cliff edge which is a breath-taking sight all the way.

 

You’ll reach the viewpoint for sunset to take some incredible pictures and watch the sun go down over the Pacific. After this, you’ll head down the dunes where the bus driver will be waiting to take you back to the town.

 

Make sure to take a coat or windbreaker as the wind is relentless. It’s no coincidence as to why Paracas is a kitesurfing hotspot, the wind is intense.

ATV OR DUNE BUGGY TOUR

ADVANTAGESDISADVANTAGES
Super FunLess freedom to explore
Knowledge of a local guideMore expensive than guided tour

What better way to see the park than by driving a buggy over the rolling dunes and then parking up on the cliffs to watch the sunset. This is a great way to see the national reserve, especially if you’re looking for a bit of an adrenaline fix as well.

 

You also get the added benefit of the guides knowledge so you know where you can drive and park, which you won’t have if you rent one yourself. Guides always know the best spots for pictures too.

 

Playa Roja Tours also do ATV tours of the park or Las Adventures focus more on buggies so you and a friend can saddle up next to each other.

OUR OPINIONS

We both visited Paracas National Park separately, so we’ve both done different things and have different opinions. Here are our thoughts:

 

 

Bayf“I rented a bicycle to go explore and loved it. I enjoy the freedom of being able to go wherever I want and stay for however long I wanted and speeding down the dunes with the wind roaring in your ears is a great feeling. 

 

As we also need to take pictures and videos for the blog this option is always my go-to. However, by the end of the day, I was knackered, and my legs were certainly feeling it.  I also didn’t make it to La Catedral as I couldn’t be bothered to spend that much time on the bike. In hindsight, I would have preferred to rent a moped to see and do more without destroying my legs.”

 

 

Koum“I went on a guided sunset tour. Our tour guide was a lot of fun as were the people who joined us. The guide was informative, and he took us to all the best spots explaining things along the way. For example, we learned that seaweed is big business in the national reserve and people will climb down the hillside to gather it from the shores below, then roping it back up to the clifftop.

 

The tour guide captured some great pictures at sunset. In the end, we returned to town in the comfort of the people carrier. The downside was that the tour was fairly rushed as we were aiming for a specific spot at sunset and so we didn’t have time to enjoy the sights for that long, it also costs more money than doing it on your own.”

If you have decided that renting a bicycle to explore Paracas National Reserve is the way to go then are complete guide with illustrated maps will help you plan your routes and stops.

 

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.

 

Where’s your next stop in Peru? If your heading north then check out our Lima guide, or if south then you should be looking at visiting the desert oasis of Huacachina. 

 

 

For more on backpacking in Peru, check out our itineraries and travel routes: