Visitors need to make an obligatory stop in Chincha (Km 202 along the South Pan-American Highway) to take the local bus to the town of Lurinchincha. From there it is a 10-minute walk to the beach of San Pedro, located in the department of Ica, where the sea peeps out amidst cotton plantations. Ancient temples known as huacas rear over the bright green fields, and pools of fresh water along the coast teem with clumps of junco reeds and white ibis. The sand is clean and the waves exciting enough to keep swimmers entertained.
There is little doubt that Paracas features one of the most spectacular stretches of coast along the Peruvian shoreline. Here, the barren desert runs down to a deep blue sea, with sweeping beaches, towering cliffs and bluffs carved out by the waves.
This national reserve, which covers an area of 335,000 hectares, is one of the country's finest beach destinations. Paracas -and the adjacent Islas Ballestas islands (a 1-3 hour trip) ideal for snorkeling, fishing, windsurfing, surfing and photography. The area teems with flocks of guano birds and sea lion colonies and is a haven for migratory birds and rare species such as the Humboldt penguin and wildcats. Visitors are advised to explore beyond the tip of the peninsula, where there are fantastic beaches. Just 7 km from Paracas, a stretch of sea has formed the beach known as La Mina.
La Catedral: The emerald sea is overlooked by a look-out point where one can gaze out over the sea lion colonies which live on tiny islands nearby. Just 14 km from Paracas, another dirt road runs above the upper reaches of the La Catedral beach, its name (The Cathedral) stemming from the bizarre shape carved out by the erosion of the wind and waves. From here one can scramble down and enter this natural dome which is battered by waves at high tide.
Also worth a visit is the Mendieta beach, 25 km from Paracas and in front of the Isla Zarate island in the heart of the desert. The reserve and its beaches are reached by a paved road from Pisco (at Km 24 of the South Pan-American Highway). Once past the roadside checkpoint, the route turns into a dirt road. At the nearby resort of Paracas and the beach at El Chaco one can find hotels, restaurants and boat rentals. Apt for all vehicles.
First stop is Palpa, 398 km south of Lima, before driving two hours down a sandy track alongside the Grande River down to the ocean. Visitors should travel in their own car. Punta Caballas, in the department of Ica, has no running water or hotels, and only bread and soft drinks are sold locally. One can camp out or look for a spot inside uninhabited beach houses, the remains of a long-deserted beach resort. Surfers will find excellent waves which take a long time to break as they flow against the wind. Local fishermen provide mackerel, sea bass and shellfish.
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