a VirtualTourist member asked on Oct 17, 2012
We are hesitating if we should pre-book the tour for Ballestas Island & Paracas National Reserve before we go to Peru or should do the trip ourselves.
Somehow, we have a good search online, there aren't many tours which combine both places.
Any idea which is the best arrangement to visit both places as a day trip from Lima?
If you are going to do it as a day trip from Lima, then it is best to do it as an organised tour. It is a VERY, VERY long day. You will leave Lima at around 03.00 and only return late that night. If you can possibly, it would be far better to plan on spending a night at least, either in Paracas itself, or in Ica. Any hotel in Ica can arrange a tour - car and driver to get you to Paracas, see you onto the boat, and then take you around part of the National Reserve. Very reasonable cost. To do it yourself, either as a day trip from Lima, or as an overnight from Ica, will be fraught and you will probably end up not doing both. I actually wonder how you would do the National Reserve; you would have to hire a car/driver in Paracas and I am not sure if these are available, although a taxi is always an option. However, you really need someone who knows what you will be seeing. - For a few pennies more, by taking a private tour, all the arrangements can be taken care of very easily and pleasantly. We are not ones for taking tours but we did it as a day trip from Ica and it was one of the highlights of our trip to Peru. There was just the two of us in the car, with a driver and a guide, and it was one of the pleasantest times. I don't think the cost for each of us was more than £15 for the whole thing. Paracas doesn't have much in it, although if you can, spend an hour or so in the museum. You certainly must make every effort to do the trip - as I said, it was one of the highlights of our whole trip. I would happily go back, especially to the National Reserve, which is fascinating and exceedingly beautiful as the light changes. For the trip to the Islands, don't forget a warm coat (a fleece) and perhaps a hat. Try and sit in the middle of the boat. Any questions, please ask!
I agree with the above. You can travel and stay either in Ica or even closer to Pisco (many buses from Lima to Pisco) and stay in a decent hotel quite cheaply. Make it a two-day tour.
Lots of tour operator offer this tour on the Plazza de Armas in Pisco so you don't need to book in advance.
Of course a tour from Lima will offer you the convenience of just following the guide and that may be what you want. A day tour will be a very long day!
Thanks for the information. It's really interesting to know that.
I have searched around online and noted that most tours only spend around 2-3 hours on both sites. That means to cover both Ballestas Island & Paracas National Reserve, it takes 4-6 hours in total. Is that right?
Do you know any tour agencies which organise such tour please?
As I remember, the boats to the Ballesteros Islands leave only in the morning - at 08.00. We were definitely back before lunch but not that much before. We then had lunch and in the afternoon went to the Paracas National Reserve, where we spent at least four hours. This latter is a very large area and you cannot hope to "do" it all in one day but you will certainly obtain a good overview in three or more hours. Four to six hours for both seems like a rush, bearing in mind the time frame for the Islands and the fact that is would be nice to have a bite to eat in between the two sites!! I would say 10 hours for both is more realistic but these tours do tend to rush.
When we were in Lima we took a couple of the day tours offered by Miraflores Council. They are very good and excellent value for money and with truly bi-lingual and very knowledgeable guides. I know they have one that goes to Paracas, etc. Of course, it will be a very early take-off but the advantage is that you would pick it up in Miraflores, which is where I guess you will stay. A lot of these other tours require you to get yourself to the Cruz del Sur bus station (bearing in mind the ungodly hour of take-off)..... not a difficulty in itself providing you can arrange for a taxi at that hour but it is a bit of a hassle, especially if you don't speak Spanish. The taxi ride shouldn't be more than S/.10 sols. However, I do recommend the Miraflores Council tour, provided it leaves on a day when you will be in Lima. You can book tickets from the information booth at the Parque Kennedy in Miraflores.
I personally would urge you to try and take a night in either Pisco or Ica and do the trip from there, either as a tour or as a private tour. You won't be rushed and the locale is definitely worth going the extra mile. Then you can take the bus from the Cruz del Sur bus station during the day, arrive at Pisco or Ica around lunch time, have a bit of an explore and arrange your next day's tour, and arrange to take the bus back to Lima early evening the following day. The trip is 3-4 hours. Coaches are very comfortable and have toilets on board and you'll be given a snack or meal - all for a very reasonable, nay, inexpensive charge.
I thoroughly recommend any of the Miraflores Council tours. I will see if I can find the website so that you can have a look.
Sorry, I cannot raise the Miraflores website for the tours. However, an extremely good website for Lima is:
If you go to the section for day tours and so on, then you will find a few companies that do tours within Lima and locally e.g. to Pachacamac. We didn't use them but Mirabus has a good reputation. LimaVision is the big company but there is nothing to chose between Mirabus and them.
I will keep digging and see if I can unearth the Miraflores Council tours leaflet.......
I have actually found the info online.
It is all in Spanish but easy to understand the salient points. I cannot see the days the various tours go but you can email them. They speak English. Cost for the Paracas, etc. tour is S/.170, which is about £40, which is extremely reasonable. Btw, the hour of return can be taken with a large pinch of salt!!
Thank you so much Hawkhead, you have been very informative! We will try to work out if it's feasible to spend a night in Pisco.
Lastly, is it better to carry USD or Soles? I haven't checked with the bank / money exchange if they sell Soles, but I assume that it shouldn't be a problem.
Soles is the currency of Peru, so this is what you should try and use. There will be occasions when prices are quoted in US$ but we never ever pay in US$. The price in soles will always be more favourable than the US$ price quoted. What we do is obtain soles before we leave, just enough to last for a day or so. Then we use a cash travel card, which we use to obtain soles from ATMs in banks. These travel cards can also be used to pay for services such as hotels, restaurants, etc. I am resident in the UK where travel cards are common and there is a good choice of cards but it may not be so in your country of residence. However, they are by far the best and most convenient way of obtaining funds when abroad. If need be, you can top up the card online with funds from your bank account. You will find that Peru is very much a cash society, although you can pay with a credit card in places but these are bound to be places where you are paying tourist prices. You would be much better off paying cash for all purchases except hotels; even then, for the most part we pay for hotels with cash, paying in soles. If you do pay with a credit card, do ensure that the price on the bill is in soles, not US$.
Please do remember to haggle, especially for taxis. You should try to pay for half the amount quoted and then be prepared to come up just a little. The prices quoted may seem very low when you translate it into your own currency but it will be way above what is normal in Peru. Everyone haggles, including the Peruvians. Of course, bus and train and airfares are a fixed price!
Wait... what is this travel cash card about? I am also a resident in the UK, I have travelled to a lot of places but never known this travel cash card... you don't mean debit card, do you?
Did you get the Soles in the UK or you bought it at the airport in Peru?
No, I do not mean a debit card. Put "travel cash card" into google search. Soles were bought in the UK.
Thank you so much for your help....
You're welcome. Any time.