From Lima we decided to go to Paracas. In Paracas you will find a beautiful nature reserve and you can do a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands. The Ballestas Islands are dubbed as the Poor man’s Galapagos as you will find many sealions, penguins and birds on the islands. You are not allowed to set foot on the islands, but the islands are very small, so you easily see all the animals from the boat. We did this tour with Peru Hop and they will take us all the way to Cusco, via the safe, southern route.

Beautiful viewpoint at the Paracas Nature Reserve

Why Peru Hop

Peru Hop is a travel company that is based in Lima and Cusco. They offer a variation of routes from Lima to Cusco and the other way around and you hop on and off at several cities: Paracas, Huacachina, Nazca, Arequipa, Puno and Cusco. Peru Hop offers an itinerary that will take you from Lima to Cusco in just four days, with plenty of interesting stops along the way, but if you want you can stay in each hop-city as long as you like. Peru Hop was one of the only travel companies that offers the safe route to Cusco via Arequipa and that was the main reason we booked with Peru Hop. This does add a lot of extra time in a night bus to your itinerary, but you can’t have everything. We decided not to get off at Arequipa because we have to catch a flight from Arequipa later on and will visit it at a later time. Peru Hop is more expensive than taking individual buses, but we really liked traveling with Peru Hop. We met lots of nice people on the bus, Peru Hop did all the thinking for us, we had a guide with good local tips and Peru Hop took care of our luggage while we were having nice stops along the way.

Our Peru Hop bus


After an interesting tour through slave tunnels, our first real stop with Peru Hop was Paracas. Paracas is a small beach town and is the main gateway to the Ballestas Islands. We stayed at Los Frayles Hotel which Peru Hop booked for us for € 27 per night, which had a good location and was comfortable enough. We didn’t love Paracas and thought Máncora was much more charming. The restaurants in Paracas don’t look very cozy and the beach is full with plastic chairs and seaweed. Though it is fine for a one-night stay because we did love visiting the Ballestas Islands.

We did see this stunning sunset from the Paracas beach

Ballestas Islands

The poor man’s Galapagos was the main reason we visited Paracas and we were really happy with our boat tour. A boat tour of the islands takes two hours, it takes you about 30 minutes to get to the islands and then we spent an hour circling the islands. An hour definitely is sufficient time, because it is really easy to spot the animals. All the sealions and penguins were lying on the beach and the rocks. The Ballestas Islands do seem a bit overpopulated with birds, at times it was almost uncomfortable to look at how many birds were on the islands 😉 It definitely seems like a paradise for them! The Ballestas Islands are protected and you are not allowed to visit the islands themselves. Fishing is also restricted, so the all the animals can find sufficient food. A tour costs about € 13, Peru Hop arranged our tour for us, but you can easily book a tour yourself in the little harbor.

Harbor of Paracas
It might be kind of hard to see, but zoom in for a good view of the penguins
In love with these little animals
Just to give you an idea of the overpopulation of birds 😉

Paracas Nature Reserve

Paracas also has a Nature Reserve, this nature park mainly consists of a beautiful coast line and enormous desert-like sand dunes. The sand dunes are located directly at the coast and this is a beautiful sight. Peru Hop took us to the main viewpoints, which was fun, but we wished we had booked a buggy ride in our spare time. In Paracas you can also book buggy tours, I think for about € 30-40 per buggy, which you can drive with two persons. The surroundings were super spectacular and I can only imagine the fun you can have with a dune buggy!

The cathedral viewpoint reminded me of the coast of Australia

Other stops

On our way to Paracas Peru Hop stopped for breakfast at a nice hacienda where we could also ride horses. In the late morning we stopped at Hacienda San Jose in Chinca where we received a tour through the slave tunnels. These tunnels were between different haciendas and the harbor so slaves could be smuggled without having to pay taxes (!!). We also visited some punishment rooms for the slaves, which was super sad as the slaves had to sit in a completely dark room for weeks at a time. We didn’t know Peru also had a history of slavery, so this definitely opened our eyes. Hacienda San Jose now is a luxury hotel, but people say the ghosts of the slaves still live there… The horror of the slave tunnels and the beauty of the bougainvilleas that were blooming everywhere definitely were an interesting contrast.

Beautiful Hacienda San Jose has its own church


  1. Jullie hebben een geweldige reis uitgestippeld, heel mooi om te volgen.
    Nog veel plezier en geniet de laatste maand.
    Groeten uit Huissen

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