900 BC to 200 AD – The Paracas Peninsula is named after the Paracas culture. The people were fisherman and farmers who cultivated beans, maize, and red peppers. Their settlements were further north of the present-day Paracas Natural Reserve around Pisco, but they used Cerro Colorado as a burial site for centuries.
From excavations at the Paracas Necropolis, we know that the Paracas were exceptionally skilled craftsman. Obsidian knives, fine pottery, shell and bone necklaces, gold ornaments, and finely woven textiles have been found in subterranean tombs. The dry climate and the lack of light in the underground burial chambers ensured the preservation of these artifacts.
1820 AD – On September 8, the “Freedom Expedition” headed by the Argentine general Jose de San Martin landed on Paracas Bay with more than 4,000 soldiers. San Martin headquartered close to the Plaza de Armas for a few days. He is said to have drawn up ideas for the Peruvian flag during this stay and that the pink flamingo, a resident of the Paracas peninsula, inspired the flag’s red-and-white colors. The liberation force later marched to Lima in the effort to free the South American colonies from Spanish imperial rule.
1925 AD – A team of archaeologists led by Julio C. Tello begin excavating the Paracas Cavernas, a communal burial site dating to 300-200 BC.
1927-28 – Tello began to excavate Wari Kayan site. The team found mummy bundles wrapped in cloths, feathered costumes, fine jewelry, and food offerings. Textiles from Nazca culture were also found in Paracas site. The two sites together are known as Paracas Necropolis.
1975 – The Peruvian government creates the Paracas National Reserve.
2007 – A massive 8.0 magnitude earthquake rattles the central coast of Peru. Most of Pisco city was destroyed and more than 400 people died, including 148 who were inside the Pisco cathedral when it collapsed.
Tourism is on the rise in Paracas, and in its wake, a range of hotels that run the gamut from luxury resorts to budget-friendly guesthouses and backpacker hostels. Newer resorts spread north of the pier or south closer to the National Reserve, while most other hotels and restaurants are concentrated around Malecon El Chaco. The following are our preferred Paracas hotels, selected by our staff for their outstanding service and excellent amenities.
Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort
Avenida Paracas (no number), Paracas
Soak up the luxury and splendor of the lavish, one of the first “It” hotels on the glittering Peruvian coast. Leave your bags with the porter and your cares at the door. Inside the plush, aquatic-hued Paracas Luxury Collection by Marriott, a soothing, slowed-down world of total relaxation awaits. Ideally located on the Paracas Bay in front of the nature reserve of Paracas, the hotel’s five-star amenities include 2 swimming pools, a bar-lounge and deluxe spa. There are a variety of family-oriented activities and a Kid’s Club area.
Hacienda Bahia Paracas
Urbanizacion Santo Domingo Lote 25, Paracas
This understated hotel offers comfortable accommodations in the spectacular seaside setting of Paracas, a town just a few short hours from Lima and on the way to the Nazca Lines. Spacious guestrooms, suites, and bungalows are all tastefully decorated in a minimalist style combining the earthy tones of polished wood and brick tiling with white-washed walls and contemporary furniture. Each room has a bathtub and a private terrace, while the hotel’s grounds boast a luxurious spa, swimming pool, bar, and restaurant.
Av. Principal de Paracas Mz.D lote 03, Paracas
Centrally located for exploration of El Chaco, Gran Palma is an excellent budget hotel option in Paracas. Just a few minutes’ walk gets you to the main boulevard, the artisan market, and the main square where you can catch a boat ride to the Ballestas Islands. Choose from 20 modern room all equipped with private bathrooms hot water, cable TV, and complimentary wireless Internet access. Breakfast is served on the 4th floor terrace with gorgeous views to the sea.
See all Paracas Hotels
Where to Eat
Fish and seafood play a starring role on most restaurant menus in Chaco. Many seafront restaurants near the pier serve a menu del dia (set menu with starter, main, dessert) or a la carte. Grill stands by the pier are also a source of cheap eats.
Dine on your choice of panini, pizza, pasta dishes, all with great views over the town.
Av. San Martin s/n (in front of Hostal Brisas de la Bahia), Paracas
Chalana Restaurant (Hotel Libertador Pier)
Part of the Hotel Libertador, located on the pier, specializing in fresh seafood fished straight from the bay.
Av. Paracas s/n, El Chaco
Seafood and pasta with great views from the 4th floor.
Av. Paracas (entrance to Chaco pier)
Enjoy live music, great food, and a friendly vibe at this restaurant-bar serving pizzas, burgers, and tacos.
Av. Alan Garcia s/n (one block from Chaco pier)
Breakfast, fresh fruit smoothies, milkshakes, burgers, and a friendly staff serving happy hours drinks in the evening.
Av. Alan Garcia Mz C (across from Artisan Market), El Chaco
Restaurante El Che
Paradise for seafood lovers. Fish, prawns, octopus. Fresh from the sea.
Lagunillas Beach, Paracas National Reserve
Getting Around El Chaco
Everything in El Chaco is within walking distance. Mototaxis are available to get you around quicker, while regular taxis cover longer distances to nearby towns.
Best Time for Wildlife
Ballestas Island tours depart in the morning when winds are calmer and animals are more active. Depending on the season, you might see different species of birds or aquatic animals. For example, penguins are best seen from April to November. Sea lions are here all year round in the hundreds, so don’t worry about missing them.
Nazca Lines Tour
The Pisco Airport is located at the southern end of Pisco town, about 6 mi (10 km) from Paracas. It is not usually open for commercial flights, however charter aircraft do provide Nazca Lines flyover tours.
As with many places in South America, tourists are advised to take caution with personal belongings. The national reserve stretches far out into the desert peninsula. It is recommended that visitors travel in groups during daylight hours to avoid getting lost, or worse, robbed.
The Paracas National Reserve covers an extensive part of the peninsula; therefore, it is not recommended that guests travel alone and should always come prepared with food and water to make it through the hot desert in good health.
When is the best time to visit Paracas?
The best months are in the summer time from December to March, when the days are hot and the sky is clear. The Paracas seaside is especially busy during this time and attracts Peruvians on their summer holiday.
How far is Paracas from ___?
- Pisco: 22 km (14 mi) south
- Ica: 75 km (46 mi) northwest
- Lima: 260 km (160 mi) south
Is it possible to visit Ballestas Islands and Paracas Peninsula in one day and be back in Lima by the evening?
Yes. Ballestas boat tours are usually in the morning and last 2-3 hours. The peninsula is just next door, so with a private driver, you can visit the key sites in a few hours and still have time to return to El Chaco or Pisco for the return trip to Lima.
If there’s too much wind/bad weather in Paracas what else is there to do?
Head to the pisco distilleries in Ica or Pisco or try sandboarding or a sunset sand dune tour in Huacachina Oasis.