3 places to visit down Perus' South Coast
Overshadowed by Machu Picchu, the South Coast of Peru was an adventure we knew nothing about.
So it turned out to be a real treat.
Our first stop was Paracas, aka The Poor Mans Galapagos.
Paracas is a tiny seaside town that you can walk around in under half an hour, including photo stops.
There's two main roads, one's made of asphalt, the other one dusty earth.
Both run parallel to a short seaside boardwalk. The boardwalk's lined with seafood restaurants that start at upmarket tourist dining, hit mid range outdoor BBQ's somewhere in the middle, then finish with low budget eats down the very end, where crowds of locals dine outside on white plastic chairs.
A good friend of mine reckons you can always tell how good a restaurant is by how many locals are sitting outside on white plastic chairs.
Having seen our fair share of sea lions on Galapagos, we skipped Ballestas Islands to head to La Playa Roja.
It's an easy day trip through Paracas National Park, with flamingo sighting stop offs en route to La Catedral arch. Although the arch was partially destroyed by an earthquake in 2007, it's still one of Perus' main attractions down the south coast.
When we got to La Playa Roja, the tide was receding to reveal the damp, dark red sand this beach is known for.
La Playa Roja is where the Pacific Ocean meets the Peruvian desert. The wind out on the coast that day was fierce. It whipped our hair into such a sand filled mess, we rolled into Huacachina looking like two hangovers from a bad eighties prom.
Huacachina is a small, Americanised town that circles a small oasis in the middle of the desert.
It's surrounded on all sides by high sand dunes that continue out into a deserted distance.
We stayed in the renovated section of Banana Hostel. Accommodation included two excursions, number one of which had to be sand boarding.
Sand boarding turned out to be a mad amount of fun.
We hooned along the sand dunes on the bright green buggies the locals call areneros, gaining air time more than once before tearing down hill, vertical, on wooden boards that hit each rivet and dip of the dune on the way down.
Covered with sand in places it shouldn't of been, we spent the evening sitting on top of one of the highest dunes. The vivid sunset cast shadows across the sand, tricking our eyes until the desert fell dark.
The next day we hit a local distillery for a Pisco tour. The history of this potent drink is well worth the visit, as is purchasing direct from the supplier at the end.
We found sand everywhere after we left Huacahina.
I’m certain we left a little sand trail behind us marking our route to Nazca, peppering sand along in lines not dissimilar to the ones we flew over.
The captain of our tiny plane banked left and right, intent on giving us the best views of each geometric pattern and animal shape carved into the rocks below.
If you want my opinion, (hey, your reading the blog right?) then yes, the plane ride over the Nazca lines is worth it.
There's more than one excursion in Nazca.
As well as producing the infamously strange lines that most people are there to see, the Nazca culture built an underground aqueduct system alongside a ceremonial city called Cahuachi.
The South Coast of Peru turned out to be a surprise adventure of places I hadn't known existed.
Other places in Peru get much more airtime on the gringo trail.
Our next destination included.