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Paracas is a small town located on the west coast of Peru. Backpackers commonly visit Paracas to tour the Ballestas Islands that are home to sea lions, pelicans and Humboldt penguins. The Ballestas Islands are commonly referred to as the poor mans Gallapogas and are a great alternative to people who can’t afford to visit. If you are visiting the Gallapogas Islands while backpacking South America, I would skip Paracas and the Ballestas Islands altogether.
This backpackers guide to Paracas covers things to do in Paracas, places to stay and other travel tips.
Things to do in Paracas Peru
Tour the Ballestas Islands
If you are in Paracas, chances are you’re there to tour the Ballestas Islands. The Ballestas Islands are popular because they are home to unique rock formations and wildlife such as sea lions and penguins. From Paracas, you take a boat tour out to the Ballestas Islands.
To save money, don’t pre-book a tour, instead head directly to the port in Paracas and pay 10 soles for the boat plus 2 soles in taxes.
Paracas National Reserve
Paracas National Reserve is a protected national park, made up of the desert and marine ecosystems. Within the Reserve, you will find untouched beaches, wildlife and beautiful views. My advice for getting the best price tour is waiting until you arrive in Paracas to book. Paracas National Reserve is spread over 827,450 acres so it’s best to book a tour. You can arrange a tour that includes both the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve in one day.
Visit the beaches of Paracas
Some popular beaches in Paracas include Playa Rojo and El Chaco. Playa Roja boasts blue waters and contrasting red beaches, making it a unique beach that shouldn’t be missed. Playa Roja is found in the Paracas Reserve.
Shop at the colourful markets
If you have spare time in Paracas, check out the markets along the waterfront in Paracas. You will find many colourful alpaca accessories, arts and craft.
These are the main things to do in Paracas, so as you can see, options are limited.
Recommended length of stay in Paracas
I recommend staying in Paracas for long enough to tour the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve. If you plan on staying longer, I recommend a maximum of 1 night. If you are short on time, you could skip Paracas altogether.
Getting to and around Paracas
Paracas is around 3 hours South of Lima. You can get to Paracas from any location in Peru on the Cruz Del Sur bus service. Once in Paracas, everything is within walking distance. To tour Paracas National Reserve, I recommend taking a tour.
Places to stay in Paracas
Search for cheap accommodation options here.
I stayed at Icthus Paracas Backpackers. This hostel is family owned and operated. We were greeted with a warm welcome. The hostel is clean and safe. Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here. It is located off a dirt road about 200 metres from the main square. Although not the best-located hostel, it is not far from anything (the town is tiny) and has all you need. You will be made very welcome here. Breakfast is not included
Travel Insurance for Paracas
Safety in Paracas
Safety precautions are recommended in Paracas:
- Avoid flashing your valuables
- Keep an eye on your belongings at all times
- Lock your belongings in the hotel safe
- Remain aware of your surrounding
- Avoid unknown streets at night
- Don’t drink too much
Language in Peru
The official language in Peru is Spanish. Limited locals will speak English.
Vaccinations for Paracas
Check the Travel Doctor website to find out what vaccinations you need when backpacking to Peru. If you have any further questions regarding vaccinations required for Peru, I recommend consulting a doctor.
Other tips for visiting Paracas
- Paracas is a small town with limited ATM machines, so it is best to carry cash with you to Paracas.
- Support small business when in Paracas, instead of big tour companies.
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