You may not have heard of Islas Ballestas but it is often termed ‘the poor mans Galapagos Islands’. The Ballestas Islands lie just off the west coast of Peru, a short journey from the small town of Paracas. These islands are a group of large rock formations and are home to a number of marine animals, including birds, penguins and sea lions! The boat trip out to the islands takes 20 minutes and the boats hold approximately 20 to 30 people. Once you reach the group of islands the wildlife starts to emerge among the cliffs and caves and the tour guide gives plenty of information about what you can see. Once plenty of photos are taken and the islands have been fully explored its time to head back to Paracas.
If you find yourself in Peru then this is a great trip to add to your itinerary and these are my 5 tips for visiting Islas Ballestas.
1 – Book ahead with a tour company with good reviews
Once we knew that we were planning a visit to the Islas Ballestas we decided to book ahead of our trip to avoid disappointment once we got there. We booked our trip with Paracas Explorer who we found through Findlocaltrips.com, opting for the 10am slot, we were collected from a central hotel within Paracas and taken to our boat. The trip included the trip on the boat with a driver and a tour guide and lasted for two hours. There was no waiting around or queuing and the boats were safe and the staff were all friendly. What was amazing was that this trip only cost £12 each, making this an incredibly budget friendly trip.
2 – Take plenty of snacks
Paracas is quite a small town and although there are a few shops and cafes/restaurants, the food they are selling is limited and prices are heightened due to mainly tourists stopping here. You will have probably come from Lima before arriving in Paracas, so I suggest stocking up on snacks for the day before you leave from the local supermarkets in the city. There are plenty of places for you to sit and enjoy eating your lunch, my recommendation is to sit along the coastline watching the boats go out, especially if the weather is as nice as it was when we visited.
3 – Wear warm clothing
When we arrived in Paracas the sun was shining and it was incredibly warm compared to the weather we had just experienced in Lima. What I did not take into consideration was the fact I was about to go on a boat ride out to sea and that the boat was open and would go quite fast, which created a bit of a wind. No matter how warm you think it looks I recommend taking a coat and a hat. Whilst we were travelling on the boat out to the Islas Ballestas I got incredibly cold ears which is always a bit of a pain. You also don’t know if the weather is going to change whilst out on your trip exploring the islands as you are out for just under two hours and the weather here can change quite quickly. Better to be safe than sorry!
4 – Make sure you have a good camera
This was the one time on the trip where I really wish I had a good DSLR with a really good zoom. I managed to take some good photos with my phone as the driver of the boat was able to get us quite close to some of the rocky patches where the animals were sitting. However, if you had a good quality camera the photos you could get would be incredible and quite frankly when are you going to visit a place like this again?
5 – Continue your trip onwards to Huacachina
Some people stay over in Paracas for a night, however the town is very small and there is very little else to do in the town once you have finished visiting the islands. We left Lima early in the morning, had the trip to the Islas Ballestas at 10am and then continued our journey at 1pm to Huacachina. Huacachina was only an hour and a halfs drive from Paracas, which meant we arrived quite early in the afternoon. This little dessert oasis is mind blowingly beautiful and a great way to make the most of your day rather than staying in Paracas or simply heading back to Lima.
Peru is such an amazing country and really has an unbelievable amount of things to see and do (see some of my other posts here and here). I knew nothing of the Islas Ballestas before planning my trip last year and still very little is written about these islands as they aren’t one of the top attractions of the country. Visiting these Islands from Lima is very straight forward and for nature lovers an absolute must, just make sure you bare my 5 tips in mind when you go!