Country Peru | Dates June 30 – July 2 | Accommodation Icthus Paracas Backpackers & Kokopelli Paracas
Since we purchased tickets on the awful Peru Hop [See My Review], we decided to take advantage of all the stops, meaning Paracas was added to our itinerary. A beach town with a tourist twist, Paracas boasts the Isle Ballestas or “Poor Man’s Galapagos” with a variety of sea-related wildlife, and the Paracas National Reserve.
We took a tour to the island since we love wildlife. Our bad luck remained, so we spent a cloudy/rainy morning on the boat which departed 40+ minutes late. Everyone exiting the boat before us looked miserable, and of course the sun came out as we pulled back into dock. We spotted the weird candelabra petroglyph, which is believed to be a variety of things: a “lighthouse” for pirates, made by ancient cultures, or created by aliens! As we circled the islands in the rough blue water we saw sea lions, penguins, and tons of birds, including one that poops 1kg per day. Plus so many shrimp the water appeared red. It was fine as far as tours go, nothing special really but worth doing if in the area.
Paracas National Reserve
We took the free tour to the Paracas National Reserve, stopping at 3 viewing points in the massive national park. At the first we viewed La Cathedral, a rock in the water. Stop 2 was at a coastal lookout (forget the name) with many cliffs over the beach. I determined it was a good idea to run down a steep hill which was more like a cliff face to get a “special vista” no one else got. It was exceptionally steep and I almost didn’t make it back up — literally had to run as it was impossible walking because it was that steep. Later, the bus drove down it and everyone got the vista…
Stop 3 was at Playa Rojo (red beach) with…RED sand! Well red mixed with white mixed with black, due to a volcanic situation (by a volcanic situation I do mean I forget what the guide told us caused it).
There’s a path by the water, lined with restaurants peddling their menus and selling jewelry. The main street is lined with all the hostels and mini-marts. The residential areas are located away from the water, with more normal-looking streets. North of the downtown, a colored sign that says “Paracas” (great photo op), an odd monument dedicated to some man named San Martin relating to independence, and even a strange lodging comprised entirely of campers. We walked it all, and for lunch, ate close to the boat departure area at the cheapest restaurant with a menu for 12 soles.
We spent a lot of time at our hostel in the sun by the pool, and enjoyed sunset on the beach drinking some local wine. Later I dropped the wine off my top bunk and shattered all over the hostel floor – oops.
Slave Tunnels of Chincha
We didn’t want to see these, but our bus stopped and made us. There are a series of massive tunnels located in the town under the old haciendas from Spanish colonial times, which we accessed via Hacienda San Jose (today it’s a hotel). The tunnels had a variety of uses, from a place to hide from native populations attacking, to a way to transport slaves without paying taxes or to keep them illegally after abolition, to later a burial place. More tunnels were recently revealed in a massive earthquake. While visiting the tunnels, we also learned about the history of slavery in Peru, the Chinese immigrant population that worked once slavery was abolished (explaining the prevalence of Chinese food in Peru, served at places called “Chifa”). It was worth a visit after all – Learn More.
Hostel [& Bus] Happenings
At first we were excited for a room upgrade and towels. Our excitement waned, however, when we discovered indisputable evidence of bed bugs. We asked to change rooms and were stuck in a filthy room with bugs in the bed, stained and unwashed sheets, and a shower that didn’t function and sprayed water all over the bedroom floor. We felt so filthy, we quarantined our clothing. At our second (normal) hostel, at breakfast, a bird ate my food while I was washing my hands. On our bus some weird debris and fumes came from the ceiling. We debated loudly what it was – bird feathers? Carbon monoxide? We felt unwell each time we boarded.