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Ica, Pisco and Surroundings

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The City of Ica


Ica is approximately 300 km (180 mi) south of Lima and is the capital of the Ica Region.

It is quite an old city: founded in 1563.

About 220.000 people live in Ica, which was devastated after the 2007 earthquake.

Despite the fact that the Nazca Geoglyphs are closer to the town of Nazca, Ica is used by most travelers as a base point for getting close to the ancient attraction. Because, Ica has better connections with other cities (like Lima), while Nazca is poorly connected.

Ica is situated in the desert.

The city's attractions are its old centre, the museums and it is also believed that the climate of Ica can cure asthma.




The Attractions of Ica


You can visit Ica's internal attractions in a single day. Its centre is relatively small, there aren't many spectacular buildings, but there are interesting museums, beautiful houses, friendly streets.

Ica is also a good place for those who like discos and nightlife.


The Main Square


Locals call it Plaza de Armas or Plaza Central.

It is a small park with paved roads running from its edges to its centre, where an obelisk is located.

There are several two-towered churches in the area, some of which are visible from the square.


Museo de Piedras Grabadas (Museum of Engraved Stones)

Contains interesting carved rocks that were created by humans living in the area tens of thousands of years ago.

According to analyses done at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, the rocks are between 61.000 and 99.000 years old.


The carved rocks were found in 1961 after when the Río Ica had flooded and the water and mud left these creations exposed from the ground.

The rocks were found about 40 km (24 mi) south of Ica.

Interestingly, it was the locals who have been selling the rocks that attracted attention to them. Not the archaeologists. They were a bit late, unfortunately for science...

Many rocks were bought and further more were found in the desert and brought to the museum.

The rocks are very very old. There are very few objects on earth older than 12.000 years. Imagine that these rocks are dated to be up to 100.000 years old!

What is on the rocks: scenes showing people hunting dinosaurs, carvings of plants, rituals including music playing by humans.

The dinosaurs look particularly interesting. Some of them clearly show the kite-shaped plates on the back of the dinosaurs. This is characteristic to the stegosaurid species (out of which the most famous is the Stegosaurus).


Some scientists consider these rocks fake.




Attractions and Activities in the Proximity of Ica


The area around the city is a very beautiful sand-dune region that resembles the Sahara Desert.

Specialized travel agents organize various trips in the area: sandboarding (similar to snowboarding, only that it happens on the sand dunes), desert buggy riding...

The most popular attraction is the Laguna Huacachina, which is a nearby oasis.

There are several extinct oases, lagoons close to the city.


Laguna Huacachina


This is beautiful oasis in the Desert of Ica, the area west of the city of Ica.

The Sahara-like scenery has a small whole-like place where green vegetation and a lake a located. Buildings were constructed around the lake for leisure reasons.


The Laguna Huacachina is a green oasis in the arid desert.

The distance to it is about 0,50 km (0.30 mi) from Ica. The city has grown an continues to grow in all directions. Some living quarters and industrial buildings have spread westwards, very close to the oasis.


Laguna Orovitca


This is a smaller lagoon a bit south from Laguna Huacachina. This has no buildings, nor any major lake. Water is scarce and the desert has already spread between the trees and bushes.

This used to be a lagoon... not anymore... It is a dieing oasis.

Slowly, slowly the desert will consume it. If someone takes action in order to preserve it, it will be beneficial to the small oasis.

The slow agony has consumed several lagoons in the area and this seems to be one of the next targets.

Desert buggy driving trips often take travelers out to this so-called Laguna Orovitca...



The City of Pisco


It's name is famously immortalized in the name of the renowned traditional Peruvian alcohol drink: Pisco. For further details about this, check our Peruvian food and drinks-dedicated article.


Pisco has a population of approximately 120.000 people.

The area is not famous for the Incas, nor the Chachapoyas or Huari or Chimú cultures... but for the Paracas Culture. At least, this ancient civilization comes more out into evidence than all others who had inhabited this area of Peru.

During the colonial period, the Spaniards considered making Pisco the capital of Peru, but the choice had later fallen on Lima.




The Attractions of Pisco


Pisco is a fishing town that has grown into a city.

It has few attractions of its own, but the Paracas Peninsula and the nearby guano islands are famous destinations.

Plaza de Armas (The Main Square)


The statue of José Francisco de San Martín Matorras, an Argentine general, is located here.

There is also a mansion there, where the famous leader had lived.


The Municipal Palace and the Pisco Iglesia de la Compañia are the main architectural attractions around the Main Square.

The latter one is a wonderful yellow baroque church, whose construction was begun in 1689. It is certainly the most beautiful attraction of Pisco.




Attractions and Activities in the Proximity of Pisco


The area around Pisco is desert-covered and has an interesting shoreline where birds, seals and even penguins roam.

There are beaches frequented by locals and foreigners as well.


The Ballestas Islands, the Sangayan Island


These are off the coast of Peru, very easy to reach by small boat.

There are travel agencies offering trips to them. A tour to the Ballestas and then to the Paracas Peninsula will be a beautiful experience: you will be able to see the Candelabra geoglyph in the northwestern tip of the Paracas Peninsula, you will see animals on the cliffs of the Ballestas Islands...

The Ballestas Islands are an archipelago of uninhabited islands.

They are known as guano islands... This means that birds and other animal roam around them, they even give life to their babies here and over time their droppings cover the island, thus changing its colour to a white-light gray colour.

The animal droppings are scientifically called guano.

These guano islands are a roaming place for sea lions, cormorants, seagulls, penguins etc.

Tourists who take tours to the islands are taken around the arid rocky shores. They can admire the fauna and the colour nuance changes along the shores: the upper parts where animals live are lighter in colour (due to the guano, primarily), the lower levels are stronger coloured in brown, yellow or red.

During a tour you will also see natural rock arches that were formed by the ocean...

The Isla de Sangayan is a larger island, a bit further from the Ballestas Islands.

Sangayan is similar in looks, only larger...

Scientifically Sangayan is part of the Ballestas Islands, but some sources will talk about like it were separate.


The Paracas Peninsula and El Candelabra (The Candelabra)


At about 30 km (20 mi) south of the city of Pisco, you will find the Paracas Peninsula. There is a town called Paracas, from there the peninsula is very close to the south.


The Paracas Peninsula is also called the Paracas Desert. Sometimes simply: Paracas. And it is a magical place!

The views on the peninsula are unrivaled... the colourplay on the cliffs, especially on the shore is appealing to art-lovers and those with a melancholic personality... art and nature lovers will love to drive or hike on various parts of this peninsula and discover the brownish inland cliffs, yellowish sand dunes, the reddish shoreline cliffs and other geological features...


The Paracas Desert is a national reserve and it contains salt in its grains. It is believed that breathing the salty air in is healthy for the lungs. There are therapies used for curing lung and breathing-related illnesses, such as asthma.

Of course, the dust itself could be dangerous to breathe in. Covering your nose is recommended.


The geoglyph seen on the left side is a major mystery travel attraction in the area.


Similarly to the Nazca Lines, this huge carving on the side of a hill can be seen from airplane. Due to its location near the shore, it can also be seen from boats sailing nearby.

The shape is called Candlestick or Candelabra in English. The Spanish term is El Candelabra.

Sometimes, it is referred to as The Candlestick of the Andes.

Indeed, the shape resembles a candlestick. It is hard to understand what it really represents. Or simply the creators' mind went wild and imagined an abstract shape? Perhaps it isn't supposed to mean anything...

Some say it looks like a cactus...

But it has a strange triangular shape in the middle section, right where the three main branches should join. They don't join together, but connect to a triangle. A perfect triangle.

The branches have small branches on them, which are clearly asymmetrical. None of the three main branches are identical.

If it were to symbolize an object, it were more symmetrical. The asymmetries make it look rather like a plant, like a cactus or a flower.

But then why the triangle? And why do the two side branches "jump out" of the main branch in a straight line. These characteristics again make us think of an object. But we will probably never know what that object was: a sacral object or a tool?

Could this be rather an abstract representation of a phenomena? This way, it might have a deeper meaning than just a "simple object".

From the ocean, the object can be seen from 19 km (12 mi) distance.

The height is somewhere around 200 m, but there are conflicting numbers appearing in encyclopedias, atlases and web-based sources. Some say 181 m (595 ft), others quote 244 m (800 ft). The difference is great, but the 200 m (656 ft) is the average. This is gigantic, about the length of a US Navy aircraft carrier.

The Candelabra was created by a culture labeled The Paracas Culture by the specialists. Of course, we have no idea about what they called themselves...

The creation's "birth date" was probably sometime around 1.000 BC, otherwise, about 3.000 years ago.


Tambo Colorado (Puka Tampu or Pucallacta or Pucahuasi)


Ancient Inca site located close to Pisco in the Pisco River Valley along the highway that leads to Ayacucho.

The site was constructed at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Pachacuti Inca. The same Inca ruler who is believed to have been the constructor of Machu Picchu.

The complex is large and well-conserved.

Despite the strong 2007 earthquake in the area, Tambo Colorado has remained quite well-preserved.

It is believed that Tambo Colorado was a coloured-walled complex.

Red, black, white, yellow were probably the most widely used colours. The walls had wide horizontal coloured strips.




Getting to the Ica & Pisco Area


The whole area is interesting, but in order to visit it, you will have to decide: will you enter it through Pisco or Ica?

We will tell you the most practical and popular way: travel from Lima by road.


Getting to Pisco


This city is located north of Ica. It is better connected and closer to Lima.


If you are travelling from Lima, then it's recommended to get to Pisco first. Either by road or by airplane.


Pisco has its own airport just south of the city. It is so close, you could walk your way out to it! (Not that we'd recommend you to walk to and from the airport!)


LC Busre is a small airline flying between Lima and Pisco. But, don't expect scheduled flights travelling on a regular basis. Check out the official website of the LC Busre airline's offers and you will be able to book online!
The lowest prices are around 75 - 100 USD. Most of the time you will have to pay substantially more. These are the amounts that you will pay most probably if you "hunt down" the cheapest flight prices.
The airline has small Fairchild Metro III. propeller-driven planes.


Buses mostly operate on the Pan-American Highway (Carretera Panamericana), reaching Lima, Nazca, Arequipa, Ica and other cities.

Many of the buses don't enter towns, small cities, but will leave you close to them, without turning off the Pan-American Highway. From there it is recommended to take another bus or taxi.

Bus trips to Lima most often require 4 hours. To another popular destination, the town of Nazca it takes 2 - 3 hours.

There are no trains in this area.

Getting to Ica


There are regular buses from Lima and Pisco.

Ica is 4-5 hours away from Lima, while Nazca is about 3 hours and Ica about 2 hours away.


If you prefer to fly, then either fly to Lima and from there by road vehicle to Ica or fly to Pisco (almost no other flight available than some from Lima) and from there by road.


Ica has no train station either.


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