A Peruvian Whirlwind!
We flew into Lima which I have previously visited. Instead of heading downtown, with our limited time here we headed to the coast, wandered around Parque Del Amor (The Love Park) which has a beautiful tiled bench. We went to Barranco for food and drinks which is a funky, arty district in Lima which is great for tourists to eat, drink and party!
We stayed in KACCLA The Healing Dog which is located in Miraflores - the best district to stay in. They have a pet hairless Peruvian dog called Pisco, cute organic and homemade breakfast bags and it's an awesome hostel.
A beautiful coastal resort which is HOT! It's nice to wander around the seafront and definitely don't miss out on the amazing day tours to the Ballestas Islands - by boat - where you can see Penguins, Flamingos, Peruvian Boobies, Sea Lions, Starfish and many more bird species and animals. It's only a 2 hour tour but it's great to see all the wildlife and nature. It's often called the "Poor Man's Galápagos Islands" but we have been to both and they're completely different and both great to see!
Another tour you should do if you have time is by bus to the Nacional Parque de Paracas which is white sand and dunes for miles with some coastal stop-offs to look at rock formations and a famous red beach (the only one of its kind) and more chances to see wildlife and plenty of sand...
Otherwise Paracas is great for beach days, pool days and there's lots of good restaurants in which to eat seafood.
We stayed in Kokopelli which is an AMAZING hostel - one of our favourites. With "pod" beds, a swimming pool, restaurant, bar and outdoor games. Not to mention the beach access and great location in town. It's relaxed, clean and comfortable all topped off with having a great atmosphere.
Huacachina & Ica
Just over an hour from Paracas is Ica, which we popped into for the day. It's crazy busy and there's a very small area which is recommended to tourists - we strayed from the main square and locals told us to turn back and it was unsafe. It's a very busy, polluted city with crazy drivers, lots of beeping horns and maniacs in TukTuks. Personally, I'm glad I didn't stay in Ica itself as it was just too hectic.
We opted to bed down in nearby Huacachina, the desert oasis, and it was Christmas so we chose to stay in El Huacachinero Hotel which is lovely! We loved Huacachina... We walked up the sand dunes (HARD WORK!!) and went sand boarding and sand buggying - both of which are very fun! They're selling tours everywhere but we did ours through Desert Nights Hostel and had a great time. Huacachina is tiny, so if you're not willing to relax for a few days then maybe 2 nights is adequate. Because it was Christmas, we sought out some good food and our hotel had a pool so we chilled out in this picturesque oasis in the middle of the desert.
This was a fleeting visit as we were rushing ahead to get things done before New Year's Eve. We therefore didn't actually stay in Nazca and stopped by for a few hours - long enough to do a tour of the The Lines by car. We went to two viewpoints, paid under £20 each which is probably expensive for what we saw but Nazca is a tourist trap and we didn't have too much time to look around.
I'll be honest - they were average. Apparently I would have been "more blown away if I had flown over them" but as time and budgets don't allow I didn't. Also I think you have to have a real interest in these things. As for me, yeah they're cool but they're a few lines in the ground. I suppose it's the surrounding mystery but it wasn't the highlight of my trip. Alas I'm glad to say I've been and I've seen them! Also we found a great Peruvian spitroast chicken and chips restaurant which made it even more worth our while.
Another stepping stone city which we didn't see a huge amount of. However we stayed in Maycawasi Hostel which was perfect for us, in a nice area with comfortable, squishy beds! It's the second largest city in Peru and the suburbs seem to go on for miles. It's busy with shops, markets, lots of restaurants and churches. As we didn't see too much of the city I don't have much to say, however what little we did see - it looks like another nice South American city. Very clean with old colonial architecture and lots of narrow winding streets! It's the perfect place to base yourself for The Colca Canyon Trek...