Paracas is a small seaside city with a few things to do, namely taking a tour of Paracas National Reserve. The town essentially consists of one main road with a bunch of hostels/restaurants. Along the beach are a number of market stalls with local vendors. However, if you venture in a block or two from the beach you will find shacks and run down buildings that fade off into the desert.
We would have liked to stay in Paracas longer than a night (mostly because we had been moving around so much), but we wouldn't recommend more than two nights. However, if you stay in Paracas it might be worth checking out the nearby city, Pisco, where the classic Peruvian Liquor originates from.
Paracas National Reserve was established in 1975 and contains over 800,000 acres of preserved land. Within this reserve hundreds of species of birds, reptiles, mammals, and fish are protected along the Paracas Peninsula. It's mind blowing to see the desert drop off into the sea in this uniquely tropical desert region.
Our tour guide told us that Mars Rover tests have been conducted here due to the similar terrain of the red planet. Unfortunately we couldn't find any links to substantiate that claim, so we will just take his word with a grain of salt.
We highly recommend taking a tour of Paracas National Reserve; it was our favorite thing we did during our stay. Once again, our PeruHop pass came in handy and offered a free two hour tour, including transportation. We were able to walk to the edge of massive cliffs and watch the crashing waves below. It kind of reminded us a little bit of our experience in Big Sur in California, but on a whole other level.
La Catedral, the impressive pointed rock formation pictured below, used to look quite different. It used form a large arch connecting to the cliffside until an earthquake destroyed it in 2007.
This desert looks like an entirely different planet. Paracas has a uniquely tropical climate where the desert meets the sea. Also unique to Paracas National Reserve is la Playa Roja, or the Red Beach.
Wonder what makes gives the beach its unique color? According to PeruHop: "The red color of the sand is caused by the nearby massif of Punta Santa Maria, formed by a sort of igneous rock known as pink granodiorite, which contains solidified magma inside. When breaking against the cliffs of Punta Santa Maria, the waves carry fragments of the reddish rocks that then settle on the shore, in a beautiful contrast with the yellow and ocher colors of the cliffs."
Paracas was our last stop on the PeruHop tour before we made it to Lima. We had been waiting to get to this small seaside city in order to try the Ceviche; raw fish that is left in lemon juice so that the acidity 'cooks' it. We are sushi lovers so we found this delicious, but it might not be for everyone.
We actually got an excellent Ceviche dish from Restaurant Paracas; it turns out they offer a 20% discount to PeruHop passengers! Before we went to the restaurant we actually had no idea until the waiter mentioned it, which was an added bonus. Make sure you have your PeruHop wrist band on if you go the same route.
From our experience, we like to use Hostel World to check out potential hostels, then check other booking websites like Booking.com to make our reservations. Sometimes we also message hostels directly to get a better price. We also like to use Airbnb to book accommodations if its a better deal than hostels. Clicking on either of the icons will give you a deal with either of the sites, but are affiliate links so we earn a small commission.
If you're looking for somewhere to stay in Paracas, there are plenty of hostels and hotels along the main strip. Though only some are available online to pre-book there are others that can be be booked in person last minute. Our lodging fell through so were wandering around at night trying to find somewhere to stay in Paracas on a budget. Some of the places we found are listed below - these can all be booked online but usually require cash payments upon arrival.
Dorms: $10.01+ USD
Private Rooms: $45.48+ USD
Amenities: Free Wifi, Free Breakfast, Bar/Restaurant, Swimming Pool, Tours/Travel Desk
Private Rooms: $18.19+ USD
Amenities: Free Wifi, Self Catering Services, Tours/Travel Desk, Luggage Storage, Laundry Facilities, 24 Hr Reception
Private Rooms: $18.00+ USD
Amenities: Free Wifi, Self Catering Services, Tours/Travel Desk, Luggage Storage, Safe Deposit Box, 24 Hr Reception