The Nazca lines are the best-known attraction of the South Coast, but there is a great deal more worth seeing there if you have the time. The South Coast is a perfect place to spend a restful weekend in the sunshine, or to visit for several days as you explore the South. Most of the towns on the South Coast are good places to find a quiet hotel or restaurant, relax, have a pisco sour, eat seafood, or to explore natural and archaeological attractions.
PLEASE NOTE that the web links I have provided below are to Peru’s national travel chamber of commerce websites. I have not vetted and am giving no particular recommendation of the travel companies that are selling through the site, but it is a good source of some basic information and it has photographs of this less well-known region.
If you only have a day, take an Aerocondor round trip tour from the Lima airport. They will fly to Ica, where you will transfer to a small plane for the flight over the Nazca lines. Make sure that lunch is included (preferably at the Hotel Las Dunas), and that the trip includes a visit to the regional museum.
If you have more time, plan anywhere between two and five days on the South Coast, visiting Paracas, Ica, and Nazca. The things most worth seeing include:
The Paracas Peninsula — This is a windswept and barren looking nature preserve where you can see sea birds, sea mammals, and other wildlife along the coast. It is also and archaeological park, (although there is not much to see of the actual archaeological sites). The small museum near the entrance to the park will give you some idea of the archaeological riches of the Paracas area
The Islas Ballestas — An island preserve reachable by boat tour where you'll see everything from sea lions to boobys and, if you're lucky, humbolt penguins.
ICA and surrounding areas — The Regional Archaeological Museum in the town of Ica. Although it is too dark, dusty, and old fashioned, this is one of places to see some of the more wonderful archaeological treasures on display in Peru, including spectacular textiles and extraordinary Paracas and Nazca pottery. There are also human remains including skulls, mummies, and tatoos on ancient mummy parts on display, and there is a scale model of the Nazca lines outside.
Huacachina. This is a great little oasis lake in the middle of sand dunes where you can go for lunch or stay.
Nazca — Fly over the Nazca Lines. You can do this from Lima, from Ica, or from Nazca itself (less expensive).
An archaeological tour, wich can be arranged by any travel agent. Visit Paredones, the big Inca site in the Nazca area, Cahuachi, the large early Nazca site with monumental architecture, and Estaqueria, with its wooden logs still visible, and the Puquios, known as acueductos, which have been used for fifteen hundred years to make agriculture possible.
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