After spending a night in Lima, we caught our bus to the beautiful and remote coastal town of Paracas, Peru. We checked in at our hostel and went for a walk on the beach. Paracas is a beautiful little town, and it feels like it is about to explode with tourism. I am thankful that we came here while it is still in the process of getting there.
The next day we woke up at 7am to take advantage of the day. We had originally intended to just hang out on the beach and relax. We thought we’d just ask about what tours we could do anyway, just to see if we might be able to afford to do one, and discovered that we could rent bicycles and ride to Paracas National Reserve, just a few kilometres away. We priced the bikes at our hostel and two other places, and decided on a place that had pretty new looking bikes, and they rented them to us for S/ 25 each for the whole day, the best deal. So we quickly grabbed some food from the closest grocery shop, and headed for Paracas National Reserve.
Entrance to the park was S/ 10 each. I planned for us to do a loop through the park, so we headed right, towards La Mina Beach. The ride started out flat then became a tough uphill as it went past the visitors centre. As the hill rounded off, in the distance we were met with beautiful, massive sand dunes, and desert sand everywhere. Eventually we spotted the ocean, and rode down to Lagunillas, the scenery becoming more and more breathtaking as we neared the ocean. You reach a bay, with huge eroded cliffs to the left, and a little fishing village and beautiful carved out sand dunes to the right. Ahead of you is a weird, but beautiful site, called Playa Rojo, or “The red beach” (read more in the description below the photo).
We cycled to the little fishing village, where we ate our picnic lunch. We then headed back and up the hill to Itsmo de la Peninsula, where we were met with even more spectacular views of the vast desert. The viewpoint up there is the narrowest area of land, and you can see the ocean on both sides. From there it was a nice downhill through moon-like landscape all the way to Yumaque Beach, which was also beautiful. From there we cut left, and back to the park entrance. Doing it by bike was incredible, and I would recommend doing it to anyone, although you do need to be relatively fit to enjoy it. There are some uphills, and riding against the wind is pretty challenging at times. You will definitely see more though, and I feel like you take in more of the experience when you are subject to the elements, instead of behind a windscreen.
As far as distances go, I am not 100% sure on them. It was about 3.5km from the place where we rented the bikes to the park entrance, then about 6km to Lagunillas, about 1.4km up to Itsmo de la Peninsula, roughly 3km to Yumaque Beach, about 1.5km across to the main road, then roughly 5km back to the entrance of the park. These are estimates, as I can’t find anything online to tell me for sure. You will ride on a mix of paved and sand roads, a mix of smooth, bumpy, and soft. Don’t try it with road bikes.
Typical views from the beach of fishing boats and birdlife in Paracas
Getting close to Lagunillas
Playa Rojo, or the red beach. The red color of the sand is caused by Punta Santa Maria, a nearby massif. It is made of a sort of igneous rock known as pink granodiorite, which contains solidified magma inside. The ocean crashes against the cliffs and deposits the reddish rock sand onto the beach.
It is quite sad to see hungry looking stray dogs, which are everywhere
Cara wanted this photo to be in here
I think we saw about 5 other cyclists the whole day
These are fossilised snails called Turritella, which lived in the Paracas Bay waters about 36 million years ago. This was a small piece of one I found lying loose on the ground.
We were blown away by how incredibly comfortable and luxurious the bus trip was. We highly recommend Cruz del sur if you’re looking to get around Peru. We also recommend staying at Kokopelli Hostels; great staff, friendly vibe, and safe.
Words by Pete. Most photos by Cara.