Home to Peru’s take on the Galapagos islands and set amongst a never-ending desert expanse - Paracas is a must-see while in Peru. It’s small, and it’s quirky, but it has so much to offer, and you can fit it all in during two or three days.


This small coastal town doesn’t have much going on at its centre.  It’s watching the untamed nature and exploring the surreal landscapes that will fill most of your time here. Here are the top three things we think you should do when visiting Paracas:


  1. Rent a bicycle and cycle around the desert
  2. Take a tour to Peru’s version of the Galapagos – the Ballestas Islands
  3. Take a sunset tour in the National Reserve


We prefer to break our activity guides into days rather than a list of things to do. We think this makes it easier to plan how long you should stay and how much time to attribute to each activity. We would suggest two days minimum with three being perfect for fitting everything in without rushing.

Day 1 - Visit And Explore The National Reserve

Visiting the National Reserve and getting out into the desert is a must when in Paracas.


This was our first desert experience, as being from Europe we’ve never actually come across one, and our minds were blown. The endless rolling dunes stretching off to the horizon, and the sheer vertical drops from coastal cliffs into the ocean are a sight to behold.


Renting a bike is the cheapest way to explore the park but we also have a breakdown of the three other ways you can do it here. If you decide to rent bikes to explore, make sure you head out early in the day to avoid the midday sun, or if you feel like catching the sunset in the park then why not try a guided ATV tour instead.


Whatever mode of transport takes your fancy, this is a fantastic half-day activity. Whether you go morning or afternoon, the other half of the day can be spent lounging by the pool at Kokopelli and working on your tan.

Day 2 - Take A Tour To The Ballestas Islands

The Ballestas Islands, home to unique species such as the Humboldt penguin, are a perfect trip for nature lovers.


Sealions, dolphins and more seabirds than you’ve ever seen in your life – it will feel like you’re in an episode of Blue Planet when visiting the Ballestas Islands.


There’s a pier located in the centre of the town and all tour boats leave from here. You can buy tickets from vendors on the street or arrange a tour through your hostel. The tour should cost around £10 ($15).


We’d recommend an early morning tour, although in truth it doesn’t really matter when you visit. The tour lasts around 2 hours. Your first stop will be to observe the bizarre geoglyph carved in the desert sand, the Paracas Candelabra. It can be dated to about 200 BC, but only myths exist to explain its presence

After that, you’ll head to the Ballestas Islands themselves. As mentioned, the islands will be packed full of sealions, penguins and colonies of seabirds. You may also see dolphins riding in the wake of your boat.


If you’re visiting between August and October, this is the migrating season for Humpback whales which are often seen in the area.


Sealion breeding season is between January and March when you’ll see the beach covered in these noisy but loveable creatures.


For the price and the amount of wildlife you see, we think the tour is definitely worth it – especially if you haven’t already visited Isla Plata or the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. We’d seen many sea lions and birds during our time in the Galapagos Islands, but this was something else! We can honestly say we’ve never seen so much wildlife in one place.


For the tour, you’ll need to bring a windbreaker or jumper as it can get windy during the boat ride. Also, remember to bring sun cream and sunglasses as there’s no shade from the blaring sun.

Day 3 - Go On A Sunset Tour

A third day is only essential if you are looking to relax by the pool longer or explore the park differently.


Both of us were in Peru at different times. I (Bayf) visited the national park by renting a bicycle for the day. Koum, on the other hand, visited at sunset with a guided tour.


As we mentioned, these are only two of four ways in which you can visit, and each will offer you something different.


It’s always great to not be rushing, but we understand backpackers are often limited with time. You could easily fit a bicycle explore, sunset tour and Ballestas Islands tour all into two days if you wanted to!


Take a walk along the waterfront in Paracas and you will find a selection of restaurants, many with outside seating perfect for watching the sunset over the habour.


If you take a left when coming out of Kokopelli hostel and walk to the harbour this way, the street that leads to the sea has rows of small restaurants serving cheap food.


  • Fruzion has great breakfast options, including pancakes and fruit, with several fantastic smoothies to choose from too.
  • Vegano Peruano is an incredible restaurant is on the third floor of the shopping mall. It has the best view out onto the sea. The food is stunning and they’ve recreated all the classic Peruvian dishes using vegan ingredients – we can’t recommend it enough. Try the vegan Lomo Soltado if you visit!


We’re going to keep this one simple. There aren’t many hostels in Paracas as it’s such a small town. You’re going to want one with a pool due to the desert heat so go with Kokopelli Hostel.


It has a decent-sized pool, a substantial outside bar area for relaxing in the shade, nightly activities and a mix of comfortable dorms and private rooms.


The hostel also backs out onto the sea, so it’s a great place to sit and watch the sunset in the evening.


Most travellers will be making their way in a rough loop when travelling through Peru, starting in Lima, heading down the coast and then curving up into the Andes to reach Cusco, or the opposite direction. This makes travelling in Peru straightforward and easy to plan.

How To Get To Paracas From Lima

Paracas will usually be the second stop on a backpacker’s journey from Lima, and it’s easy to reach.


The bus journey takes around three to four hours, and there are several public bus companies to pick from. We went with Cruz Del Sur due to the better reviews and weren’t disappointed. The process is the same for any bus company you choose so we’ll outline what we did here.


You can book your bus online or turn up on the day.


  • Red Bus – is specifically for Peru – the app works well, and there’s no need for physical tickets
  • Bus Bud – an international company that we used a lot travelling around South America.

There isn’t a single main bus terminal in Lima, and the different bus companies have separate terminals. So, to get to Cruz Del Sur bus terminal, we found it on google (Av. Javier Prado Este 41, San Isidro, 15034) and hopped in a uber which cost around $5.


The bus terminal in Paracas is at the end of the town. It’s a weird set up as you leave the terminal through a hotel-style area with a large wooden door. Once out on the street, take a right and head down the hill to get to the town.

How To Get To Huacachina From Paracas

This is a much shorter journey of around an hour and a half. You can book online with the companies linked above or book directly at the bus station in town.


If you are going to Huacachina then you will have to get the bus to Ica and get off there, then take a taxi into the oasis. The taxi shouldn’t cost more than 10 soles.

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.


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 and South America, check out our itineraries and travel routes: