The Paracas National Reserve (RNP) is one of two Protected Natural Areas (ANP) that preserves representative samples of Peru's coastal marine ecosystems. It contains a large part of the Paracas desert, islands and sea.
Besides protecting great biological diversity, the reserve also contains various archaeological sites from the Paracas pre-Inca culture, which was present in large parts of the area.
The RNP is located 250 km (155 miles) south of Lima, and is easily accessible via the Panamericana Sur highway, between the Salas and Paracas districts, which are part of the Paracas and Ica provinces respectively, in Ica department. It covers 335,000 hectares (827,803 acres), 35% of which comprises dry land and islands, and 65% of which is sea.
Visitors can camp in the reserve by prior arrangement with the site's management. The cities of Pisco and El Chaco, where tourists can spend the night and participate in other activities including a visit to the Ballestas Islands, are just a few kilometres from the reserve.
There are impressive rock formations, such as the Cathedral, which, while it was badly affected by the earthquake of August 2007, still offers a unique geological landscape. The natural beauty of the RNP is complemented by a good selection of restaurants and beaches, such as La Mina, Mendieta and Lagunillas, where visitors can camp and fish. El Chaco beach, at the entrance to the reserve, has both simple hostels and luxury 5-star hotels.
The reserve is also ideal for bird watchers, as well as for those who enjoy walks and adventures in natural settings. There is an Information Centre that provides information on biodiversity, ecosystems and protecting endangered species in the area.
Activities: Bird and wildlife watching, fishing, diving, kayaking, hiking, dune buggy rides and sand-boarding.
Location: 250 km south of Lima.
Weather: Temperatures range between 15.5°C (60°F) and 22°C (72°F). There is no rainy season. Although the Park can be visited throughout the year, trips are recommended during January-April, the summer months.
Access by Land: On the Panamericana Sur highway, there are two entrances:
- Take the turning at km 231 to Pisco City and then continue on the Pisco - Punta Pejerrey road.
- At the km 245 turning, take the Santa Cruz - Punta Pejerrey road.
It takes approximately three and a half hours to reach the reserve from Lima.