The rugged south coast is home to the beautiful Paracas National Reserve which covers 700,000 acres of coastline, desert and mountains. The reserve encompasses the Paracas Peninsula – Peru’s only marine reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the remote Ballestas Islands – known as 'Peru’s Galapagos’. These small rocky islands boast a large sea lion colony, Humboldt penguins and fur seals while the desert reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife including penguins, sea lions, whales, dolphins and migratory seabirds.
Stretching hundreds of miles across the Nazca plains, a giant hummingbird and monkey, are among a series of other figures and lines that are etched into the arid surface, forming the world-famous Nazca Lines. Considered one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries, these ancient geoglyphs are believed to date back to 400 BC but were only discovered in 1939. Theories explaining their origin range from the plausible – for astronomical or religious purposes – to the absurd – as an attempt to contact aliens, but the true purpose of these enigmatic lines remains a mystery.
19 miles south of Nazca you will find the remarkable Chauchilla Cemetery which is home to prehistoric mummies that have been preserved by the arid climate of the Peruvian desert. Disturbed by looters in the 1920s, the cemetery is now a protected site.
Pisco & Ica
The small coastal town of Pisco is best known for the grape brandy called Pisco which is used in the nation’s famous cocktail – the Pisco Sour and it is an ideal base for discovering the region’s Inca ruins and the incredible wildlife in nearby Paracas. An hour southeast of Pisco lies Ica, a small town renowned for its wineries. Taste the region’s pisco and wines on a tour of a local winery and distillery, and enjoy sand-boarding and dune buggies in the Oasis of Huacachina – a tiny town edging a lagoon surrounded by towering dunes that emerges from thedesert like a mirage.