paracas national park

RED BEACH, Paracas National Park - Southern Peru
©Laura Quick

Southern Peru gets very little rain, and the animals who live here have all adapted ways to survive in such a dry climate. I found this beach to be fascinating. The cliffs are golden in color but contain a lot of iron, the lighter sediment washes away in the surf and leaves behind the heavier red iron-rich sand on the shore. I thought it was beautiful.

Oh, and there’s also a huge candelabra carved on one of the cliffs near here. It’s a style akin to the Nazca Lines.

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On to Paracas and las Islas Bellestas

Paracas is a tiny beachside town entirely devoted to providing tours to Las Islas Bellestas (arc of a bow) and a jumping off point for the Paracas National Park.  A unique place on the globe, the park is a vast salt desert with huge dunes precariously sitting on the Pacific coast.  Beautiful bright colors paint the terrain, but it’s dry and bleak because it never rains - ever!  Matt and I were really excited to camp in the reserve, but didn’t have our own transportation or much time to scope out the best campsite in such an immense and uncluttered space.  This is the type of situation when finding a trustworthy taxista is critical to a good and safe experience. A well-known and established cabbie, Nicolas, gave us a ride and a tour throughout the reserve.  He thought we would be safest camping in a small fisherman’s bay, at Tia Fela’s beachside restaurant.  We soaked in beautiful ocean views, ate a very fresh (right off the boat) seafood dinner, and then were off to bed so we could wake up early for our adventure at sea.

All tours leave at eight in the morning, circumnavigate the islands in the same route, and cost about the same.  So, we decided to go with the company suggested by Nico.  Las Islas Bellestas has been referred to as “the poor man’s Galapagos”, but it is not the Galapagos at all.  It’s really a set of small rocky islands and beautiful sea-eroded archways where a limited variety of bird species, penguins, and sea lions reside seasonally.  The islands are also heavily covered in guano, which is exported once every fours years for use as high-end fertilizer all over the world.  Stinky gold!