On the way to Machu Picchu lies a city named Ica, where most tourists spend just one night to see the Huacachina oasis. We spent more than one week realizing, that Ica is much more than just a one night stand.
HUACACHINA – #1 REASON TO COME TO ICA
While the oasis is beautiful and photogenic, its glory has now faded into some sort of ‘wannabe cool’. Even though it is a number one tourist destination in the Ica region, there is trash everywhere – in the water, sand dunes, on the streets…Facades of buildings are dilapidated and locals are extremely aggressive, continuously trying to rip off tourists. Besides its dirty water, you can find numerous restaurants, bars, resto-bars and hotels, all offering more or less American style food and drinks.
We came here on Friday evening, hoping to have few drinks and find some sort of party. If nothing else, we were hoping for scattered groups of backpackers drinking beer by the pond. To our surprise, this place becomes a ghost town in the evening. Well, good enough to enjoy a pisco sour on one of the rooftop bars while watching the sunset over sand dunes… If you are a fan of sandboarding or want to have a crazy ride in the desert with the sand buggies, then you can easily spend one whole day in this place. Otherwise, I don’t think it‘s worth more than 2 hours visit.
TOUR THE LOCAL WINERIES
I don’t consider myself a wine connoisseur, but being from the wine region of South Moravia, I always like to visit wineries when traveling through wine regions. And Ica region claims to have the first winery in South America, as well as the best wines in Peru. And when our Airbnb host offered us the chance to visit the best ones, we simply couldn’t say no.
Thanks to the sunny climate of this region, wines in Ica are naturally sweet. We first visited a small Picasso family winery (entrance admission of five sole, including three samples), as well in the most popular winery, Tacama, which claims to be the first winery in South America (entrance admision of 10 sole, including three samples). Finally, we went to a Pisco Tour (free of admission), where we learned a bit more about how pisco is made and tried nine different samples there. (Yes, we were quite drunk after that!)
TOUR TO THE DESERT AND CANYON OF THE LOST PEOPLE
Our Airbnb hosts were raised and born in Ica, so when one offered us a tour to the desert in his jeep, we didn‘t think twice about saying yes. The three hour drive began on Sunday morning and, because our host grew up in the desert as a young boy, he was showing us all the places we otherwise wouldn‘t have found. Besides the beautiful desert landscape, we could also admire millions of years old fossils – from small shells to a six meter long fossilised crocodile skeleton. How is that possible? Peruvian coats ascend every year by a few centimetres so, a million years ago, there was no desert but the bottom of the Pacific ocean.
When we have arrived at the Canon de Los Perdidos, I couldn’t believe my eyes – I have never seen anything so beautiful and magnificent in my life! The fact that besides us there was absolutely nobody else was just a little addition to an otherwise perfect day trip. The peaceful, majestic landscape of the desert will stay in my mind forever.
TOUR OF THE PARACAS NATIONAL RESERVE
Paracas is a small town 4 hours south of Lima, very popular as a weekend trip for many Limeños as well as international tourists. The original plan was to make a one day trip to Paracas from Ica, as it is only a one hour drive, but when our friend Mauricio said he is coming to camp there, promising to show us off-road tracks and places without the tourist rush, it was more than clear we want to be there as well.
First, we took a boat trip to Islas Ballestas. A small catamaran took us along the coastline to see the Candelabra – an ancient geoglyph of unknown meaning – then to the islands, 25km away from the coast, where we could admire sea lions colonies and loads of birds. We also spent one night and one day in the Paracas National Reserve, with beautiful views on the ocean and flamingoes‘ lagunes.
PALPA AND NAZCA LINES
Flight over Palpa and Nazca lines is another one day trip from Ica, which attracts many tourists. There are several companies offering flight tours in Ica as well as in Nazca. From what I read and heard from fellow travellers, you can either choose a 30 minute flight over Nazca, or a one hour flight over both Naca and Palpa lines. Many swear that 30 minutes in the air, going up and down, is more then enough, especially if some of your co-travellers get sick.
We decided not to get on a plane – my boyfriend is not a big fan of flying, and I didn‘t see much of a point of looking at the drawings from above while paying quite a lot of money for such a short flight (usually around 100 USD). However, we did get the chance to see a few of the lines while driving south on Panamericana Sur. But we both still don’t believe, these geoglyphs are thousands of years old! (We think it was probably some 19th-century hippies who got bored in the desert or were practicing for their painting lessons.)
We hope that this article has inspired you to visit Ica. If you have any questions about the destination please leave these in the comments below.
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