Peru’s vast Paracas National Reserve includes marine waters of the Pacific Ocean, the Ballestas Islands, the Paracas Peninsula and a large expanse of desert. This biologically diverse protected area is located in the department of Ica about 170 miles south of Lima. The reserve’s 335,000 hectares support a rich ecosystem of marine life, birds, native plants and terrestrial species. It also includes many historic sites that span the range of human occupation of the region. Natural rock formations contribute to the beauty of the geological landscape on both land and sea. The spectacular scenery can be enjoyed by bicycle or on foot. The area is easily accessible by car.
The marine waters are part of the Humboldt Current that brings cold water from Antarctica along the coast of Peru. The current creates deep, nutrient-rich seawater that supports an abundance of fish. Fish has been an important Peruvian food for people living in this area for more than 6,000 years.
The Ballestas Islands are off-limits to people, but boats can get close enough to allow visitors to view the vast array of birds that make the cliffside appear to be alive. Birds include rare species such as the Inca tern, condor and Humboldt penguin. Other birds include the cormorant, pelican, several types of flamingos and migratory birds. The sea supports sea lions, whales, dolphins, turtles and the endangered marine otter or sea cat.
On land, gusts of wind blow the sands of the stark desert landscape into different formations. The area gets its name from the word “paracas,” which means raining sand. The Paracas Candelabra, a man-made geoglyph in the shape of a trident, is etched into the desert landscape on the north side of the Paracas Peninsula. This 2,000-year-old enigmatic design can be seen from sea or visited on foot.
If fresh seafood is your passion, you need not go to Peru to enjoy the bounty of the sea. La Costanera Restaurantat Montara Bay serves delectable Peruvian food featuring fresh fish with traditional Peruvian flavors. Ceviche, grilled fish and seafood paella are among the chef’s inspired creations. Come and explore the culinary offerings of this Michelin-starred Peruvian restaurant.