Brian and Kate of Lucid PracticeFour hours from Lima, Peru and right on the Pacific Ocean is the small town of Paracas. My girlfriend Kate and I had never heard of it before; however, at the recommendation of a previous hostel-mate, we agreed to check it out. It quickly became one of our favorite stops on our South American backpacking trip and we highly recommend that you visit, too!

As a lesser-known travel destination, we expected Paracas to have a remote, low-key feel. We were completely surprised to learn, upon our arrival, that the town is actually one of the biggest up-and-coming tourist destinations in all of Peru and has a ton of activities to offer.

We asked the staff at our hostel for recommendations on where to start, and they suggested an $11 boat tour to Isla Ballestas, also known as “the poor man’s Galapagos Islands”.

“As a lesser-known travel destination, we expected Paracas to have a remote, low-key feel. We were completely surprised to learn…that the town is actually one of the biggest up-and-coming tourist destinations in all of Peru.”

We set off the next morning, hoping to see a few exotic birds – perhaps blue footed boobies (which were all the rage up the coast in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador) or petrels. It felt amazing to just to be out in the Pacific Ocean surrounded by Peru’s amazing red sand desert. The desert in that part of the world is an incredible sight – it looks and feels like you are in the middle of the Sahara.

After about an hour on the water, we cruised up to a site called The Candelabra. It is a geoglyph (a motif designed in the ground) in the shape of its name dating back approximately two thousand years. Originally carved with stones, it has kept its shape and design because of its location on the backside of a mountain, which typically gets very little wind or rain.


Our boat cruised on and we started to see the outline of giant rock formations in the distance. They jutted out in the middle of the sea, reminding us the south of Thailand. As we got closer, we noticed that the formations were completely covered with birds: pelicans, boobies, and others that we had never seen before. There seemed to be thousands of them!

We pulled up alongside the rock and marveled at the scene. Before long, our eyes started to dart around in search of other animals. It was then that we saw them: a group of fifty penguins! They waddled around and dove into the water, their feet hanging in the air before disappearing below the surface. It was like looking at a black and white cloud moving in unison from the shore to the sea. It was an incredibly special moment.

We were fortunate to spot other animals too. Seals and sea lions covered Isla Ballestas, making loud, funny sounds. The island was a continuous echo of noises.

Our experience on the boat tour was completely unexpected and yet serendipitous; it is one that we will treasure for a lifetime. To see such a diversity of unique animals in their natural habitat was a privilege, and something we thought might only be accessible somewhere else for a larger fee (like on the Galapagos Islands). Although Paracas and Isla Ballestas are becoming top tourist destinations for obvious reasons, they do not boast the same crowds – and do not require the same resources – at the moment. We recommend you get there soon before they become more of a standard stop on the traditional tourist trail.

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Brian Levine, along with Paz Romano, Kate Reder and Danielle, are authors of the travel, wellness and yoga blog, Lucid Practice's goal is to inspire people to feel more alive through lucid engagement in enriching activities such as international travel, yoga, helping others, and eating enlivening foods. Check them out on Facebook at and follow them on Twitter @LucidPractice.
  • Laurie

    Sounds incredible. What a great feeling to find an unexpected treasure.

    • Laurie,
      It was really cool how it all developed in a few days 🙂 Unexpected treasures are, i agree, a great feeling!
      Thanks for the comment!

      • Leslie Oxfeld

        I am loving all this information. Keep up the great work.

        • You have been there as a supporter since day 1, in every aspect of my life. THANK YOU FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART 🙂

  • Tara

    I love penguins! This is a great story, I will definitely be adding Perecas and Isla Ballestas to my list for when I get to Peru! Thanks for sharing.

    • Tara,
      Paracas is a really easy destination to get to from Lima if you are planning to visit Peru. It took about 4 hours on a comfortable bus and cost only $10. The actual city is one of the cooler places we saw in Peru – really laid back, gorgeous sunsets….an overall great experience.
      Thanks for the comment! Come visit us on LP for a bit more SA inspiration 🙂

  • Paula

    Always love recommendations for cheap(er), less crowded and awesome excursions — thanks for the recommendation!

    • Paula,
      Certainly a cheaper destination – we stayed at a hostel there for less than $10 USD. The vibe of the small city is really cool – if you go try to spend a few days. Also I suggest taking a small excursion into Hotel Paracas – a starwood resort – the hotel and grounds there are beautiful.
      Thanks for the comment and come visit us on LP sometime 🙂