How to get there
Ica is about a 4 hour bus journey south of Lima. I paid S/.45 soles or about $13 dollars travelling with Cruz del Sur. The buses about clean with AC, individual screens for playing games or watching movies. They also offer you a sandwich and drinks included in the price. There are cheaper options with less benefits. For me, the price was good as the bus has a very good safety record in Peru and the buses are clean with nice seats and quite modern too.
Ica has quite a few things to visit and the prices are quite comfortable for the activities and places you get to do and see. TIP: Always book the tours with your hotel or hostel as they give you the real prices. Taxi drivers will sell sand to the Arabs, go with the hotel and DO NOT book online as you will be charged in dollars and not in soles and most likely be ripped off. Most tours can be booked the day before no problem. So best thing is to arrive to your hotel and book through them. Price and security above all as they tend to work with reputible companies.
Tour 1 – Huacachina Lagoon (Free, just pay taxi, 5 to 8 soles from city centre)
Just to give you an idea. I arrived at my hostel around lunch time. Had 4 days to do tours. Day one obviously was half over, so since this place is quite close by I decided to jump into a taxi (8 soles) or motortaxi (5 soles) from the city centre to the Huacachina. When I arrived there I walked past the sand buggies and continued climbing the sand dune until I got to the top. The view as you can see is amazing and I highly recommend it.
Tour 2 – Cañones de los Perdidos or The Lost Canyons (80 soles/ $24USD)
The price of this tour was S/.80 soles, or about $24USD. This only includes the guide and transport pickup from your accommodation. The reason why this is a little more expensive is that it takes just over 2 hours to get there and then 2 back. There are also fossils and different things as this place used to be under water millions of years ago and also became a river and now it is dry, every so often or every few years there is a “phenomenon el niño” which basically translates into heavy floods and when that happens this place comes alive, but only every 2 to 7 years so… no worries.
So, this is something I would highly recommend visiting as it is quite new. The Canyons were discovered by some fishermen back in 2006 and was only make available for tourism in 2016, so when you go here the great thing is that there are not so many people. The vans we went in were 10 seaters and there were 3 vans for the same tour agency, quite small and cool. The only problem was they were a bit cramped, little leg room and no AC (at least in my minivan). The name of the tour agency is Adventures in Route Ica. Check out their Instagram page and get in touch. Their prices are as mentioned above.
In my opionion the Canyons are a must visit if in Ica. Bring some sun cream as you have no shade, hat. It can also be very windy plus the sand and dust being blown about. Here is another photo of the canyon from above.
Tour 3 – Paracas, beaches galore (65 soles/ $20USD)
Again, this only includes transport and a guide. There were 2 vans and one biggish bus today and 1 tour guide, but since they are beaches and one display of fossils, the guide was not really necessary. So, first stop is to the Islas Ballestas run! You arrive here:
Ok, when you arrive here, you will have to pay 22 soles/ $7USD. 17 soles covers your boat ride to the islands, which takes about 45mins to 1 hour max and access later to Paracas National Reserve Park and the remaining 5 soles is a tax to use the port where the boats leave from.
The islands are good, you get an idea of the different types of birds, penguins and sea lions there are. But first, you will stop at the Chandelier or Candelabro in Spanish.
Apparently the figure is 595 feet (181 meters) tall, large enough to be seen 12 miles (19.3 km) at sea. There is no real reason behind this figure, the myths around it are laughable as no one really knows how it got there. Ica sits on a techtonic place and massive earthquakes have happened here, the last biggest one was 8.0 and while building and very old churches were destroyed this figure did not move an inch. Crazy eh!! so maybe it was aliens lol
Ok, I am not going to put up photos of what you can see there as this is something you ned to discover yourself, but I will give you a hint. Sea lions posing for the photos…
Paracas Natural Reserve Park
Now, this part of the trip is all about the viewing platforms of the beaches, some swimable, while others are not, basically due to the access and rough waves. You will also have lunch here too, becareful with the lunch and the bus driver will recommend a restaurant and for Peruvians, it can be quite expensive, not so much for us gringos, but with me living in Peru, S/.30 soles is considered expensive. However, each one to their own. So, as you roll into the park you will be greeted by ancient fossils. I was here 8 years ago and they are showing the same thing, in my opinion, it is a waste of time, which could be spent at the beach.
This part used to be under water about 500 million years ago so, they basically dried out during that time, and taking into accoun it is a desert. So, from here you will go to the top of a cliff overlooking the Red Beach or Playa Roja. The views from here are quite nice. Excuse the posing by myself! It can be windy and very hot, sand does tend to blow all over the place, so a scarf or something to cover you mouth and nose might be a good idea to have handy.
I would recommend bringing a good camera and getting as many photos, while taking advantage of the views, just like me!!
I nearly always travel solo and end up having to ask people to take my pics if I cannot use the drone as it is prohibited in a National Park and way too windy! Pity the guy didn’t take more of the ocean than me flat in the middle. Next on the tour are two beaches in one place, the most popular one is Las Minas and another nice one is El Raspón.
Many people swim out to that rock on the left and dive in, it seems to be deep enough and well as you can see the beach is packed with families and that. The beach El Raspón is about 300m from this beach, which I found to be even windier and well the sand from the cliff top was just blowing on those on the beach below.
We had an hour to spend here in this area. Some of the guys on the bus went swimming and well seemed to enjoy it, why not, you are here so consider taking some swimming stuff with you. There are bathrooms but from what I could see no showers. TIPS: bring your own snacks, water and other things with you, buy them in Ica before you set off or in Paracas as you will be ripped off at the beaches.
After spending an hour there, we went to our last location called Lagunillas. Here as I mentioned above you will have lunch. This place also has a viewing platform which is quite nice after having lunch to have a walk about for 20 to 30 minutes and take some photos. I would recommend eating some seafood as it is quite light on the tummy and delicious, there is a battered fish with chips for less than $10USD. Yummers!
You also get about 1 hour here too, to have lunch and a ramble about taking photos. Again, it can be very windy here and please take a hat, sunglasses and suncream as the sun can be really hot. From here we went back to Ica. The trip takes about an hour 20 minutes from this point and 1 hour from Ica to Paracas where you board the boat to the islands.
Tour 4 – City Tour of Ica
The order in which I did the tours is the same as the layout on here due to getting the “heavy” ones out of the way first. Mainly because tours 2 and 3 and early starts, 6.30am you get picked up and are back at about 4 and being in the sun for the whole day is quite tiring.
Plaza de Armas/ Main Square (Above)
Pick up time for the city tour is 11.30am. There is a reason behind this which I will explain down below. First thing’s first. This area of Peru had a massive earthquake in 2007, which devastated many buildings in Ica, especially the cathedral, which is a complete mess 12 years on, it is in such a state that it cannot be repaired, so basically they didn’t and couldn’t. So, they basically take you to the Plaza de Armas in Ica to show you some of the buildings. Every city in Peru has a Plaza de Armas or the Main Square and each one has a catedral, however this one sits just outside it.
The Church of El Señor de Luren
You are then taken to a church, which collapsed in the earthquake during mass. The walls literally caved in and killed most people inside the church. The local government was not willing to pay for the damages as it is quite corrupt, so a mining company nearby, 2 hours away, came along and struck a deal with the local government to rebuild the church to its former glory in exchange of not having to pay taxes and they agreed. The church does look amazing, but when these things happen it is because the local mayor gets money under the table or is on the mining companies pay roll. Nuts, but very true!
La Casa de las Tejas
Here you will go to a “chocolate factory” very delicious chocolates indeed. You can buy them in Lima too, but they are traditionally from Ica, they have a lot of variety and well if you are a chocolate love, they will even teach you how to make them for a small price, but that is not part of the city tour, just the factory and to buy some chocolates.
Wine & Pisco Tasting
Every country has their own beer or wine or licour and Ica is famous for its Pisco and Wine. Here you get to taste about 10 different types of wines and local licour. I bought a bottle of Pisco Mosto Verde, which according to the brewery, it is the best they have on offer. Try them out and see which one you like most and purchase a bottle. It is really nice mixed with different fruits. Typically, pisco sour.
The most typical dish in Ica is called Sopa Seca & Carapulgra. The Restaurant is call Restaurante CJ El Chaparral. It is not very far from the wine tasting area a few blocks away. They do not sell seafood, just typical Criolla Peruvian food. Meat and veggy dishes, but since Peru has one of the best gastronomy in the world, I am sure you will be more than satisfied. If you are one for trying new types of food. I would recommend the sopa seca above. It is basically an Andean stew with pork. The place is surrounded by avocado and mango trees. I would recommend sitting on the second floor as there is a very nice breeze and a little view of all of the trees.
La Bruja de Cachiche Park
This park is a strange one as it houses 7 witches (bruja). There is a lot of myth behind it. The story is interesting, however at the same time a tad far from reality. If you believe in card readings of your future and that, this is right up your street. People are intriged by this as the history behind it of witches having the power to cure and heal and so on. When you arrive, you have to go with a “tour guide” who basically wants tips as they maintain the park itself and they can be quite strick lol however, if I could avoid this one on the tour I would as I have little interest, for me, it is a tourist trap. Some religion Peruvians seem to be taking in by it…
You are then taken to a place which is called the Palm Tree with 7 heads, however, it is a palm tree with several trees growing out of it. The picture gives you a good idea. Again, when you go visit, a local kid gives you a “story” behind it. I was there previously and just took a picture.
La Huacachina, sand buggies and sandboarding
This is the one you really want to do as the adrenaline will go through you. Here you have to pay $1 park entrance fee. Depending on the group size but a maximum of 14 people plus a driver can fit into the buggies. Since you are in a desert, they have mountains of dunes which you have to go up and then descend on the other side, which really gets the heart going.
On my tour a man of 78 was laughing all the way and loved it and fair play to the guy as well. I hope I am that positive when I am 78 in 40 years time. You basically get two runs on the buggies after the first bit you go to a place where you can sand board for about 15 minutes, take photos of the sunset because you arrive at about 5.30pm to this place, best time really, then continue on the last leg of the buggies and few hills and that and back to where you started.
TIP: you are warned to be very careful with your things, mobile phones, hats, bottles, if you lose it during the ride for some strange reason like the phone slipped out of your hand due to a bump in the sand, they will not stopped to pick it up as it is a “road” for the buggies at high speed and could literally run you over… so, best bet would be to have a GoPro. I did however take some nice video footage of the place with a firm grip on my phone.