I visit Ica for the first time when I was 14 years old in a study trip, it was a cold and cloudy day and all I can remember, beside my loud classmates playing around, was me walking down Paracas’ beach spotting lots of birds and sea lions’ bones as well as dead sea lions all over (probably it was not the right time of the year). I am not complaining, it was a fun trip but basically we didn’t see much. Which is why now that I am all grown up I decided to travel around (my first stop was Ica) not giving it a second though, and enjoy all my country has to offer, write about it so that I can encourage people to know it too.
Ica is located about 300km to the south of Lima, 4-5 hour trip by bus, it’s a very modern city with many old churches, Peruvian street markets, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and bars as well.
There is more than one reason to enjoy Ica, which is known as the city of eternal sunshine and although on August 15 of 2007 a magnitude 8.0 earthquake cause great damage in buildings, houses, infrastructure and some attractions it is still one of tourists’ favorite city.
To talk about this city is to talk about its people, delicious sweets such as tejas and chocotejas, good pisco (Perú’s national beverage), wine, beaches, nature, history and much, much more combine with its warm climate make this city an excellent travel destination!
Like many Peruvian cities Ica can be dangerous (especially at night) you can move around the city with no problem as long as you take an official vehicle, there are lots of taxis and mototaxis to take you anywhere but do not forget to agree the fair before your trip.
It is Ica’s city gate; a small and peculiar city that is cradle of Afro-Peruvian culture, its population is mostly black and loves to share their culture, music, dance, food and art with the tourists. A place I recommend to have a little bit of everything I just mention is “El Refugio de Mama Iné” restaurant, you can enjoy black music and dance while you are at your table eating a big plate of “sopa seca” (dry soup) a traditional meal in the area.
Pisco & Wine:
Ica’s valleys are full of a variety of grapes and grape traditions, which is why Ica is well known for its winery and pisco tours, where you can learn about the now and then making of process and storage of pisco and wine because many of the wineries still feature vine processing techniques from colonial times, you can also walk through the vineyards and of course try its varieties… So if you are thinking on taking this tour you better have a head for it!
There are many vineyards such as Vista Alegre, Viñas de Oro, Viñas Queirolo, Hacienda Tacama, Ocucaje among others, some of them also offer you food and lodging for the tourists.
A peculiarity in Ica’s wine is its flavor, it is really sweet! It is said that this feature is that originally wine was brought by Spanish priests to officiate masses, and they made it very sweet so that people do not drink it and not get drunk, but somehow people ended up loving this sweet, sweet wine!
According to people stories and traditions this place was made famous for its witches who used to cure all kinds of illnesses and injuries, those witches were supposed to be good witches (not the Hollywood kind), people in this small town really care for its witches, there is even a statue of a kind of creepy witch in the principal park; but in my personal experience the place was all dead and really scared me, probably because I have seen too many horror movies.
You can also spot the very famous seven headed palm tree which looks like the Hydra with the heads everywhere.
An oasis in the middle of Ica’s desert, its waters are said to have curative properties. Huacachina lagoon has a splendid landscape of palm trees and huge dunes, nowadays it is surrounded by restaurants, hostels, travel agencies and bars for the tourists.
The “must do’s” in the Huacachina Lagoon are sandboarding and dune buggy tours where you can feel the adrenaline through your body while enjoying this natural roller coaster. If you are and adventurer and are willing to take this tour I recommend you to do it early in the morning or after 3pm where the temperature is more suitable for this kind of activities, you do not want to get sun burns!
You have to be in Paracas’s pier early in the morning and carry with you sunscreen and a good jacket because it really cold and windy and (in my experience) you will probably end up with your hair all over so forget to look all fresh and pretty in your photos. But in spite of that insignificant detail this boat tour is totally worth it.
Located near the Paracas Reserve the Ballestas Islands boat tour is very popular because it gives you the opportunity to admire Peruvians marine wildlife. You would see the Humbolt penguin, sea lions, earrings and a great variety of endangered species coexist there.
I recommend visit Ballestas islands from December to February, during breeding season so you can see and really appreciate Peruvian coastal wildlife everywhere!
During the tour you can also spot the enigmatic Candelabra shaped that was made with the same technique used to build the Nazca Lines. It is said that this shape was to be seen from the ocean because it served as a system for navigation. The Reserve of Paracas keeps many secrets of the Paracas culture, which developed in this area.
Sadly my time in this beautiful city was over, I had to go back to reality and there were many places I did not see! So… this is all for now. But to be in peace with myself I made the promise to come back, so there will definitely be a part II soon!