Paracas Peru: 10 Important Things No One Tells You (+ Insider Tips)

Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must-see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas. I break them down in the good, the bad and the good to know. Continue reading to find out about nightlife in Paracas and how long and where you should stay in Paracas Peru for different budgets.

I paid for everything in full myself. I was not paid or sponsored. All my opinions and experiences are my own.

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Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas.

Is Paracas worth visiting?

When you plan you travel around Peru, you might wonder if you should visit Paracas and if Paracas is worth visiting. Although I didn’t like everything about Paracas, I’m still happy I visited this tiny place along the Peruvian coastline. I had a great time, made some friends, saw amazing things I’ve not seen before in Peru and it was a great stop on my way to Lima Peru. For me, these 4 things were worth it to visit Paracas Peru.

Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas.
Panorama view of the Paracas National Reserve

Ballestas Islands half-day boat trip

Many people tell you about the Islas Ballestas islands and for good reasons. I found the Ballestas Islands worth it and a great reason to visit Paracas. Mainly because I’ve never seen so many birds and sea lions together in my life. What people might not tell you, is how easy it is to arrange a trip to the Islas Ballestas.

The islands are also called: the poor men’s Galapagos Islands. And maybe they are right. A trip to the Islas Ballestas doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Depending on the tour you take, expect to pay between 15 and 18 Euro ($16.50 to $20). And the Ballestas Islands are worth it.

Although arranging a tour in the harbor is really easy, you can also book ahead and make sure you’ll have a spot. Find the best Islas Ballestas tour here. You’ll go out in medium-sized boats to explore the waters around Paracas for 2 hours.

Read more about the tour to the Islas Ballestas in my post: things to do in Paracas.

The things to do in Paracas Peru are a tour of the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas National Reserve. I show you why these attractions are worth a visit.
Sea Lion family having a roar

Insider tip #1: Some tours include the harbor tax for Paracas already, others don’t. Make sure to check before you book.

Insider tips #2: I recommend to take the earliest tour available. Tours leave at 8 am and at 10 am. But the waters around Paracas are known to become rockier and weather unpredictable later in the day. The 8 am tour will have calmer seas (resulting in more chances of seeing dolphins!).

Paracas National Reserve

Something I didn’t know before I went to Paracas in Peru, was that there is more to see and do than just the Ballestas Islands. The Paracas National Reserve is actually an amazing park that you can explore on a tour.

You’ll visit the reserve’s museum, displaying all the animals in the Pacific Ocean and the impact that we have on the waters around Paracas. It was very insightful and I liked it a lot!

After this, our tour continued to Playa Roja, a red beach with crashing waves on the shore. Amazing views of the deserted land and the wide-open ocean before us. A really nice sight, although the weather wasn’t great when I visited. There is a restaurant nearby with great seafood if you’re up for it.

Book your Paracas Tour here

Insider tip #3: When you visit Paracas, you can book the tours of Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve separate or together on 1 day. You can even book a tour that continues towards Huacachina. These sand dunes are an adrenaline junkie’s playground and a really cool place to hang back and relax. Booking your onward travel saves you time and money!

Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas.
Playa Roja from the beach

Explore the surrounding area

Paracas is only a small town and besides some relaxing and visiting the Islas Ballestas, there is not much more to do. 1 night is enough time to stay in Paracas. However, the area surrounding Paracas is actually really interesting with plenty of things to do.

Ica Peru

You can whirlwind by on your way from Lima to Arequipa and Puno in Peru, but you can also stop for a few days in Paracas and explore the town of Ica. Nearby Ica is known for its Pisco sours, Peru’s national drink, and their fine wines.

Huacachina Peru

Briefly, mentioned above, Huacachina is another great place to explore near Paracas. Only a 10-minute cab ride from Ica, this desert oasis offers gigantic sand dunes and relaxing hotels and hostels with pool and hammocks. After traveling for 30 days in South America, it was a pleasant relaxing stop.

Read more in my post about Huacachina and the sand dunes tour.

Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas.
Amazing Huacachina, the Desert Oasis

Nazca and the Nazca Lines

Not far from Paracas and Ica, you’ll find the famous Nazca Lines. You can book a seat on a small airplane and fly over the area to see the amazing figures in the ground below. There is also a viewpoint from where you can get a view of the ground and the cemetery is really intriguing. An example of what it looks like is the great Candelabra. A giant cactus or chandelier drawing in the rocks near Paracas.

Insider Tip #4: You probably didn’t know there is so much other stuff to see and do between Lima and Arequipa. All places are easy going and relaxed small towns compared to the crazy traffic in Lima.

Should you visit Paracas? My answer is: Yes! But how long should I stay in Paracas, Peru, you ask me? I try to give you the naked truth about Paracas, Peru
The Calabaras with great weather conditions

What no one tells you about Paracas Peru

Everyone writes about how great Paracas is and how amazing the Islas Ballestas are. Although I really agree with this and had a great time in Paracas, there are some things that no one talks about. Things that surprised me and I didn’t expect.

The following is not to scare you or make you skip Paracas, because I do think Paracas is worth visiting. However, I’m all about managing expectations and the following things can help you manage your expectations.

Paracas Nightlife

Is there a Paracas Nightlife? If there is, it wasn’t when I was around. While I didn’t get any sleep because of the crazy parties in Huacachina or the pico sour in Lima and Ica, Paracas is more a calm beach town. Resorts line the beach where you can have a fine dining experience but not so much crazy party of nightlife going on there.

Many people visit Paracas only on a day trip, leaving the town deserted at night. I found many food stalls and restaurants closed when I visited.

Insider tip #5: The Kokopelli Backpacker Hostel in Paracas is not only great for inexpensive lodging, but it also has many other facilities. I visited the Kokopelli Paracas and my friend was staying there, and they offer many activities. You can hang by the pool, use their pool and fuss ball table, book tours and sign up for their events like bar games, food events, and DJ’s parties.

Should you visit Paracas? My answer is: Yes! But how long should I stay in Paracas, Peru, you ask me? I try to give you the naked truth about Paracas, Peru
Having crab for dinner.

Money in Paracas Peru

Paracas is a fairly small town but has plenty of tourist facilities to offer travelers taking a tour or staying for one night. However, I did have some trouble to find a working ATM machine in town. It took me 3 tries before I was successful and managed to get some soles.

I also found the food a bit pricey in Paracas. Especially for what you get. And compared to the rest of Peru. This is probably due to the fact that many people only visit on a half-day tour and go in and out of town quickly.

Insider tip #6: Make sure to have some money on you when you arrive in Paracas. Or ask locals when the ATM’s will work again. They know when they are being restocked or which machines still have cash soles in them. Be aware that Paracas restaurants are a bit pricier than other places in Peru. If possible, pay your hotel by card.

Peruvian dogs are naked!

The thing that surprised me the most about Paracas Peru, was their naked dogs. The Peruvian dog is a dog without fur. Not the cute “lets-put-a-cute-pink-sweater-on-it” kind of small adorable Chihuahua style naked dog. No, the Peruvian naked dog is a bulky, strong naked dog. Most come with a mow-hawk and they lie around Paracas on many occasions.

I love dogs and most of the times I want to pet them. I say most of the times because I found an exception to this. When I visited Paracas, I was not particularly drawn to these naked dogs. Especially not when having breakfast and the dogs come up to you. Ask the owner to shoe them away as they know how to handle the dogs.

Insider Tip #7: Peruvian dogs are rare and Peruvians are proud of them. Go to Paracas Peru to cross this of your bucket list. I’m sure you’ll find them in Peru. If you’re afraid of dogs, then you’re warned now of their different looks. As with all dogs, they will not harm you if you leave them alone.

How long should I stay in Paracas, Peru?
At that moment, I was too shocked to take an actual decent picture of the dog. This one is from Joel Takv, Wikipedia creative commons

Local communities in Paracas are struggling

Another thing I don’t hear anyone, who visited Paracas, talk about, is the fact the local communities are struggling. After the 2007 earthquake (8.0 on the magnitude scale), Paracas was in ruins. The town was hit hard by previous quakes and this one was the last drop.

Since then, the town has rebuilt itself from the ground up and flourishes because of tourists visiting the Islas Ballestas. However, most of these tours are organized in Lima, dropping tourists of in Paracas and whisking them away just as quickly.

This leaves local taxi drivers, local supermarkets and local restaurants and shop owners with people flooding their town, but no income to show for it. I stayed for 2 nights in Paracas and found local people try to make a quick buck off tourists visiting for half a day or a day.

Insider tip # 8: All the profit of the tours, go to big tour companies in Lima, leaving the local people left behind. If you wish to be a more sustainable traveler, then book your tours locally. Visit Paracas independently and book your tours in Paracas, eat out in Paracas and take a taxi around town. It is really easy and supports the people who need it. Read below how easy it is to visit Paracas independently.

Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas.
The Islas Ballestas are teeming with wildlife aplenty

How long and where to stay in Paracas Peru?

Although prices for food in Paracas were a bit on the pricier side, I found plenty of affordable places to stay in Paracas. I stayed 2 nights in Paracas. 2 nights turned out a bit much, but 1 night is great to have a relaxed visit. You can do all the tours around Paracas and not feel rushed. Or have the feeling you’re only sitting on a bus all day.

Luxury Resorts in Paracas

I stayed for 2 nights at the Paracas Luxury Collection Resort. It was a bit of a splurge for me at the end of my backpacking trip through South America and I loved the luxury. Cottage style rooms with an amazing bathtub, the biggest bed I’ve seen in South America and several pools to relax at.

Book your luxury stay in Paracas here

Should you visit Paracas? My answer is: Yes! But how long should I stay in Paracas, Peru, you ask me? I try to give you the naked truth about Paracas, Peru
Hotel Paracas Luxury Collection Resort

Where to stay in Paracas on a backpacker budget

If you’d like things a bit more budget, I can highly recommend the Kokopelli Backpackers Hostel in Paracas. I had good experiences with the Kokopelli Hostel in Cusco and had a look around the Kokopelli Backpackers Hostel in Paracas too as my friend stayed there.

Insider Tip #9: I guess the Kokopelli Paracas hostel is my insider tip. They have a pool, bar, book and DVD exchange and great rooms with a lot of privacy.

Even if you’re not the hostel kind of person, the Kokopelli Paracas also offers private rooms for you to enjoy! If I’d go back to Paracas, I’d definitely stay at the Kokopelli.

Book your room at Kokopelli Paracas here

How to travel to Paracas Peru and get around?

As mentioned above, you can book a tour from Lima and visit Paracas on a (long!) day trip from Lima or en-route to Arequipa or Puno. I found travel to Paracas independently, just as easy! I booked a Cruz del Sur bus at the bus station in Ica and within an hour I found myself in Paracas.

When I left, I went back to the bus station and took a Cruz del Sur bus to Lima. The bus takes less than 4 hours and I watched a great movie on the bus and didn’t notice the time passing by. Book ahead of time as buses can get full as this is the main route from Arequipa to Lima.

Paracas Peru and the Islas Ballestas are a must see on your Peruvian itinerary. I share 10 important things that no one tells you about travel to Paracas.
A sea lion looking at the visitors at the Islas Ballestas Paracas Peru

Getting around in Paracas

Paracas is only a 20-minute drive from the famous Pan Americana Highway. Once you arrive at the bus station, you can take a taxi or walk into town. Paracas consists of 2 round-a-bouts at each end of town. In between is the village which consists of hotels, resorts, the harbor, and small eateries.

My hotel was a bit outside the center of Paracas but even then, it was only a 4-minute walk. Taxis are 10 Soles to drive you around town. Most tours pick you up from your hotel or you can agree to meet at a certain point.

Insider tip #10: Taxi drivers will ask you how long you’ll stay in Paracas. This is not to pry but for them to lock in some solid business. It is not weird to get their phone number. When you need a taxi, just call them and they drive you around town. If you’re in Paracas for a longer period of time and use the same taxi driver again, you can bring the price down to 8 soles per ride. Only haggle when you’re on a really tight budget, 2 soles means more to them than to you.

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Your visit to Paracas Peru and the Ballestas Islands

As you can read from above, I did have a great time in Paracas Peru and I think it’s worth visiting Paracas and the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve.

The Islas Ballestas are fun and exciting and they make a great morning boat tour of the shore and the islands. And it is amazing to see so many birds and marine life altogether. The Paracas National Reserve is an excellent tour as well. You see parts of the desert you’ll not see anywhere else in Peru and these attractions are 2 good reasons why you should visit Paracas. Then stay overnight before you continue your travel in Peru.

With my insider tips, you can manage your expectations and have a great trip!

Helpful tips and tools for your Peru trip

  • Read all my content on Peru here
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  • Book your tours and activities direct with GetYourGuide or Viator
  • Travel in style with these cool travel-themed designs (I made them myself!)
  • Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel to Peru. World Nomads offers coverage for more than 150 activities as well as emergency medical, lost luggage, trip cancellation and more.

Have you been to Paracas? What did you think of it? What else did you do besides the Islas Ballestas tour? Leave a comment in the comment section below. I’d love to hear your thoughts about Paracas Peru.

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  1. Lieve de Leeuw

    Hi Naomi,
    Thank you so much for your tips and advice for Paracas. We are planning to bus in from Lima on day 1, and do tours on day 2 (both Islas Ballestas and Paracas Reserve). We would like to travel to Ica that evening. Do you thing we can book a tour to take us to those things? And do you have a suggestion for a tour operator?
    Thanks! Lieve

    1. you can definitely do those 2 tours in 1 day Lieve. That is what I did. Just book your bus ticket in advance (when you arrive in Paracas) and it will work out. I recommend you to check out the tour companies I’ve mentioned in the post. Just make sure you’ll know what is included or not so you can make a good decision with whom you’re going.

  2. Leni

    Thanks for all the info. I’ll be travelling from Arequipa to Lima and found the Hop Peru bus which seems to be a good option but it’s 140 AUD – with stop in Nazca, Huacachina and Paracas for min 3 days. Have you heard about them? They claim to be better than local buses but I guess using them, I wouldn’t really co tribute to locals as you say. What do you think?
    Thanks for your opinion!

    1. Hi Leni. Those were exactly the reasons why I didn’t take them. And yes, I’ve heard about them. Nothing wrong with Peru Hop but I found the price too steep and in my personal experience, there is nothing wrong with the local buses. Perfectly fine, safe and well maintained. The Peru hop is a luxury coach and you’ll probably end up making great friends with other backpackers. I just choose the other way as it was easier for me, more flexible and cheaper.

  3. Andrea

    Thaaks for the suggestions! I wonder if, following your adivise, is it possible to do direct transfer to Huacachina after Islas Ballestas and Reserva tours

  4. Bradley Cain

    It would be great to know what time of the year this was when you traveled to determine when it’s not a busy tourist time. I plan on going there this July and am also curious about the beaches in Paracas, the drive within the reserve/sightseeing there and the museum. I don’t plan on doing the boat ride to the Ballestas though.

    1. Ana

      I was in Paracas last July and had no problems with the smell.
      The boat ride really is one of the main attractions, and is pretty cool-we saw a penguin, seals, pelicans, dolphins…all from pretty close up! We were there only one full day, and I think that was enough. Do the boat ride first thing in the morning, then go to the reserve, and then the museum, and that’s about it.

      July is the middle winter, so it isn’t going to be super busy there.

      Also, the dogs were hairless because they are Supposed to be hairless (though, I agree they aren’t really my style of dog). They are actually pretty special to Peruvians, being a Peruvian dog.

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