Islas Ballestas and Paracas – an amazing animal sanctuary in Peru

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Join us on this amazing adventure...

Islas Ballestas and Paracas – an amazing animal sanctuary in Peru

The “Poor Man’s Galapagos” … This is how Islas Ballestas is widely nicknamed. As we don’t know Galapagos (yet!), our expectations were not that high and that was great, because this trip was extraordinary and memorable. We took so many pictures that will make us remember this as one of our favorite places in Peru (with permission from Machu Picchu and Sacred Valley); not better than other places but equally as good as them.

But we start our journey towards Islas Ballestas early morning in Ica, where we had spent the previous night and where we had also had a great day at the Huacachina oasis. This trip was not planned in full prior to our arrival as there was so much information online and it wasn’t always consistent. For that reason we decided to just turn up in Ica and book a tour once there … And that was the best thing we could’ve done, first of all because the prices were so much lower than the ones mentioned by other companies online, and second of all because you can sit and ask questions about several tours so you are better able to choose one which fits your budget and preferences.


Our tour guide was a bit delayed, arriving at 7am rather than 6:30am, but at least that gave us time to enjoy the delicious breakfast at our hotel for a bit longer. The journey from Ica to Paracas only takes 1.5 hours, whereas Paracas is located about 3.5-4 hours from Lima. The journey to Islas Ballestas and the natural reserve was early in the morning but it gave us some beautiful sights of the arid surroundings in this region which is of historical and archaeological interest.

Arrival at the Islas Ballestas harbour

After this journey we arrived at the docks to take the boat to the islands. The Islas Ballestas harbour fees cost just S/ 3, and we also paid the fees for the Reserva Natural de Paracas (Nature Reserve) which are S/ 15. Noah, being 4, wasn’t charged fees.

We sat at the back of our speedboat which was another good decision – although not deliberate of course – as we then had the best views from the boat.


The first sight on the journey to Islas Ballestas was the famous Candelabro, a gigantic figure displayed on one of the hills at the coast. Its origin? This geoglyph is a huge mystery, but we heard about 5 of them including one that was done by masons, another one done by the inhabitants of Paracas (who adored cacti), and – the most popular one – an extraterrestrial figure drawn in such a way so that other aliens could spot its exact location. Mystery or human delusion aside, this is a great visual spectacle.

The Candelabro is a geoglyph full of mystery

There are 5 different theories about the origin of the Candelabro

After that we started to see the animals. First an abandoned ship full of birds. We had never seen so many birds up close like that without them being scared of the boat, but of course they are used to daily visitors.

Birds everywhere on the wrecked boat

Half an hour after the beginning of the boat trip we finally arrived at Islas Ballestas. Once we were really close to the first islands, where we spotted even more birds, the recognizable scent of animal faeces was overwhelming. Given the visible bird “poop” all over the coast we were happy to be on the boat.


A bit further on we spotted lots of booby birds, crabs, red sea stars, penguins and sea lions.




There weren’t as many penguins as we expected. It was, however, the first time we had seen penguins in a warm climate, so we can’t complain.


A bit further still we saw some sea lions basking in the sun. It was interesting to see them so close up. Only then we realized that in that area animals and humans are really respectful of each other. They were so used to visitors there that the boat cautiously got extremely close to the rock where one of the sea lions was showing off and posing for the cameras. You could almost say that that sea lion was actually posing …


A bit further on there was an island full of sea lions. They were probably at a convention, because all of them were making such loud noises that it was easy to hear them even a long way away from the island.







The trip exploring Islas Ballestas took almost 2 hours and back at the harbour we spotted a pelican that let us take a few photos.


We were now back on the van on our way to the Paracas Nature Reserve.



Driving to the Reserva Natural de Paracas

The journey to the reserve was no less amazing as the coastal region gave us some beautiful sights.

As we mentioned before, this is an archaeological site so we stopped a few times to see fossils from the region.



A bit further on we got to see some beautiful beaches where Noah was able to paddle a bit (he was waiting for that the whole day!). The one we enjoyed the most was the Red Beach. The picture below speaks for itself…



The one Noah enjoyed the most was the beach where he could swim 🙂





Finally, we drove to the last beach where we were able to have lunch and lie in the sun for a couple of hours. Noah couldn’t help resting a bit after a morning full of surprises.

Recommended by the driver, we had lunch at the El Che restaurant and it was a good choice. We had fish, which isn’t my favorite dish but what the heck, we were in a fishing village!

We even had time to take some beautiful shots from the top of a hill where we got some nice 360 degree views.


A day to remember which made us want to explore this amazing country even more.




Translate »
Scroll Up