Paracas National Reserve

Paracas National Reserve

Without a doubt, Paracas is blessed with the most spectacular stretch of coast along the Peruvian shoreline.

The unique landscape features a saltladen desert that runs down to a deep blue sea through horseshoe-shaped beaches, gigantic cliffs and rocky bluffs carved out by the wind and waves.

The Paracas National Reserve, which stretches across 335.000 hectares, is one of the country’s best beach destinations, and ideal for activities such as windsurfing, kitesurfing, sandboarding, dune buggying, trekking, diving, fishing, bird-watching and photography.

A shelter for sea lions, Humboldt penguins, flamingos and many other birds. Various trips can be organized in the reserve, which holds numerous natural and archaeological attractions in its 335,000 hectares. One of these is the Candelabro, a geoglyph over 120 metres long, which is best seen from the sea, on the route to the Ballestas Islands.

The main attractions are undoubtedly the Paracas National Reserve natural settings that allow us to appreciate the beauty of the place and its diverse flora and fauna. Lagunillas outstanding beaches, La Mina and Mendieta and Piedra Redonda Islands and Tres Marias. This is an excellent point to bird-watching, desert adventure sports, paragliding and more.

The Interpretation Centre offers an interesting explanation of local biodiversity and the dangers it faces.

The Julio C. Tello Site Museum permanently displays items from the Paracas culture, discovered in cemeteries in the region.

Access and Services in Paracas National Reserve

A paved road leads down to the reserve and its beaches from the town of Pisco at kilometer 234 of the South Pan-American Highway. Once past the guardpost (entrance paid), the road turns into a packed dirt track. In the nearby resort of Paracas and El Chaco beach, where can find hotels, restaurants and boats for hire. Apt for all vehicles, by car, buggies, ATV or bicycle you can visit the terrestrial area of Paracas National Reserve and enjoy the desert dunes and beaches.

Paracas National Reserve

Is a natural protected area that has for objective the conservation of the marine ecosystem and of the characteristic formations of a portion of tropical sub desert, protection of the cultural and historical patrimony of the pre-Inca Paracas culture, and to promote the rational use of the marine resources.

Located along the Pacific coast, the Paracas National Reserve is an ideal example of Pacific subtropical coastal desert influenced by the effects of the Humboldt Current's cold water that flow from the south. Paracas is an important protected coastal-marine system in Peru and one of the most biologically productive marine areas in the world, serving as a major food source for fish, birds and marine mammals. A group of guano islands in the park serves as a breeding refuge for anchovies, an important link in the food chain.

From the total of its extension (335 thousand hectares), 217,594 correspond to marine waters and 117,406 to mainland.

The marine reservation has characteristic of great beauty, with average temperatures of 18.7°C (65.66°F), with sun almost the whole year and absence of rains. The wind has a speed average of 14.9 Km/h (8.7 miles/h) and in some opportunities winds that reach speeds of 32 Km/h (20 miles/h) that lift masses of sand which are denominated paracas.

The sea of Paracas presents small marine currents that favor the numerous presence of the plankton, origin of the marine food chain, giving place to a habitat of numerous marine species; are registered more than 250 species of algae. The terrestrial flora is almost nonexistent for the absence of rains.

Animals: Whales, orcas, sea lions and sea otters are among the 36 species of marine and land mammals found in the reserve. Other marine animals include scallop, crab, abalone and octopus, as well as green, leatherback and hawksbill turtles.

In the ocean also exists a variety marine wealth; great quantity of species, fish like the sole (Etropus ectenes), white toyo (Mustelus whitneyi), bonito (Sarda chilensis), tramboyos, dims, mero, pampanito, corvine, lornas, chitas, among others.

Bufeos [dolphins] (Delphinius dephis), turtles, mollusks like the octopus, squids, clams and crustaceans, as purple crabs and the muy-muy (Emerita analoga) are also common in this area.

In the terrestrial area exists a rich fauna, it harbors the biggest colony in sea lions [seals] (Otaria byronia and Arctocephalus australis), guano birds, Inca Terns (Larosterna inca), migratory birds, Humboldt penguins (Spheniscus humboldt) and parihuanas or flamingos (Phoenicopterux chilensis), species in danger of extinction, condors (Vultur gryphus), marine cats (Lutra feline) in danger of extinction, gulls, pelicans, red head turkeys buzzard, the black ostrich, unique species.

More than 215 species of migratory birds spend at least part of their lives in Paracas, of which approximately 60 migrate between Peru and the United States. Several of Paracas’s avian residents and visitors have been declared endangered or vulnerable by the Peruvian govern .

Map of Paracas National Reserve


Photo Gallery Birds of Paracas - Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery Birds of Paracas # 2 - Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery Chilean Flamingos - Photo Gallery

Archaeological Places in Paracas National Reserve

Archaeological Destinations in PeruThe reserve is located basically on the peninsula and bay of Paracas, it also has archaeological remains of the Paracas culture, outstanding the archaeological locations, the necropolis, of "Cabeza Larga" and "Pampa de Santo Domingo" where human remains of collectors and fishermen have been located with an antiquity of 6,500 BC. There was found a "quena" [flute] (musical Peruvian instrument) with decoration considered as the first musical instrument of Peru.

Within the Paracas National Reserve have been identified over 100 archaeological sites that demonstrate the degree of adaptability to the area of ​​ancient Peru. The remains show a simple lifestyle, mainly dedicated to fishing and shellfish harvesting. In the evolutionary process of the Paracas culture are known and valued textiles are classified in the Necropolis of this important stage culture.

Paracas Necropolis:
In 1925, Peruvian archeologist Julio C. Tello unearthed the first remains of the Paracas civilization. Their splendid fabrics- witnessing to a rich magical vision of this civilization's social lifewere woven in cotton, the wool of South American ruminants or a mix of both, and decorated with brightly colored embroideries in woolen thread. One of the most frequent characters is depicted as a line drawing of bird-and feline-like human beings holding a scepter, severed heads, arrows, plants and various emblems. It is variously represented in standing and flying position, looking straight ahead or to the side. The oldest Paracas human remains date back to at least 5.000 years BC, attesting to impressively continuos human habitation in an oasis and desert environment that seems to have changed little in thousands of years. Around approximately 400 BC The peninsula started to look like a gigantic cemetery. Generation after generation buried their dead in the desert sand, thus turning the area into a land of the dead. Tombs were dug deep in the shape of a bottle. A large underground chamber that could hold 30 to 40 individuals wrapped in fabrics was accessed through a long and narrow well. This configuration is at the origin of the Paracas Caverns name given to this stage of their evolution. Hundreds of these burials were found by Tello in the 1920s, fundamentally in the Cerro Colorado zone, near the present day Paracas site museum.

Towards 200 AD, funeral habits changed. At this new stage- Paracas Necropolis- the grouped individuals were interred at a lesser depth, frequently among the garbage in houses of former occupations, although always in funerary bundles wrapped in textiles, located one next to the other. Wari Kayan and Cabeza Larga, cemeteries of this type, provide many of the best evidence of textile art and pre-Hispanic surgery. The fabrics wrapping the buried corpses, a product of their creative work, were made of cotton using natural dyes. They are one of the most outstanding achievements of Andean techniques and aesthetics. During its complex history, the peninsula became also attractive for the inhabitants of neighboring regions. Pottery found in the Paracas Necropolis burials, specially the most recent one, shows a series of cultural patterns originated in the immediately neighboring valleys, Pisco and Chincha, area of the Topara culture.

In the Julio C. Tello Site Museum can see part of the fascinating history of this place that represents a major cultural center of the country. On the way through the different Paracas National Reserve are the archaeological remains of the place and the interdependence of the sea with the resident.

  • Candelabra Geoglyph

    Candelabra Geoglyph - air view
    Paracas National Reserve

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Paraglading in Paracas National Reserve

    Paraglading in Paracas NR - Supay Beach

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Paracas National Reserve

    Paracas National Reserve

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Paracas National Reserve

    Paracas National Reserve

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Paracas National Reserve

    La Catedral - Paracas National Reserve

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Inca Tern

    Inca Terns (Larosterna inca)

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Red-legged Cormorant

    Red-legged Cormorant (Phalacrocorax gaimardi)

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Pelicans and cormorants

    Pelicans and cormorants

    © J. Mazzotti

  • Paracas National Reserve

    Adventures in the desert

    © PromPeru - M. Garro