This itinerary is a great way to see the highlights in and around Lima. Get an authentic taste of Peru during your Lima city and food tour. Next, experience the beauty and wildlife of the Ballestas Islands and Paracas National Reserve. Finally, get an aerial view of the famous Nazca Lines - including massive etchings of a condor, a hummingbird, and a monkey. These impressive works of art are best viewed from the skies, as some of them are up to 600 feet in size!

Highlights

  • Explore the culture and culinary delights of Lima
  • Experience the wildlife-rich Ballestas Islands
  • Get an aerial view of some of the world's most impressive geoglyphs

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Lima Lima
Day 2 Lima City & Food Tour Lima
Day 3 Ballestas Islands & Paracas National Reserve Tour: Lima - Paracas Paracas
Day 4 Nazca Lines & Huacachina Adventure: Paracas - Pisco - Huacachina - Lima Lima
Day 5 Departing Lima  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Lima

¡Bienvenidos! Welcome to Lima, Peru's largest city and central metropolitan hub, and home to one-third of the country's population. Located at the site of a pre-Columbian indigenous Ychsma settlement, which was conquered by the Inca empire in the 15th century and later by the Spanish conquistadores, Lima has a fascinating history and a diverse mix of cultures. Amerindian, European, Afro-Peruvian, and Asian—especially Chinese and Japanese—influences make Lima a dynamic and exciting city to explore. 

Lima's breezy location on the Pacific Ocean and mild desert climate make it the perfect city for exploring on foot. Head downtown to mingle with locals, stretch your legs, and grab a bite to eat in one of the many award-winning restaurants. 

Suggested activities include: 

  • Explore the historic center of Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with fascinating Spanish architecture. Start with a scenic tour of the colonial downtown, which emanates from the main square. Stroll over to the 16th-century Cathedral, which took 80 years to construct and was built in the grandiose style of the Spanish Empire. 
  • Visit the Casa Aliaga, a colonial mansion granted by chief conquistador Francisco Pizarro to Jerónimo de Aliaga, one of his captains, in 1535. This is the only house from that era that still belongs to the same family. 
  • Stroll around the Pueblo Libre district to the privately owned Larco Museum of pre-Columbian art, housed in a beautifully restored viceregal mansion built over a 7th-century pre-Columbian pyramid. The museum boasts a vast pre-Colonial collection of gold and silver artifacts. 
  • In the evening, head to the eclectic "Love Park" in the upscale coastal district of Miraflores, where you can admire a huge kissing statue and beautiful mosaic walls.  The park is built on the cliffs of Chorrillos and is a perfect place to enjoy a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. 
  • Enjoy a nightcap at an open-air cafe or restaurant in the diverse Miraflores neighborhood.

Day 2: Lima City & Food Tour

Peruvian ceviche
Peruvian ceviche

Spend the day discovering Lima through its food. With a vibrant combination of Indigenous American, African, Asian, and European culinary influences, Lima is one of the world's most impressive gastronomic and cultural centers. 

Start the day early in Lima's Historical center to visit a local mercacado—a fresh food market—to taste the local produce and sample spices, fruits, and various baked bread. Taste different types of Piscos—a high proof brandy produced locally in the wine-making regions of Peru and Chile. Attend a cooking class and learn how to make ceviche, a fresh seafood dish marinated with salt and lime juice, and the traditional pisco sour—a Peruvian classic.  

Stop for lunch at one of Lima's top restaurants and enjoy a delicious meal on a patio overlooking the Pacific ocean. Stroll to the bohemian district of Barranco—a popular oceanside neighborhood for artists, tourists, and locals alike—for a relaxed afternoon drinking coffee and sampling Peruvian desserts.

Day 3: Ballestas Islands & Paracas National Reserve Tour: Lima - Paracas

Cathedral rock formation in Paracas National Reserve
Cathedral rock formation in Paracas National Reserve

This morning you will have an early morning pick up from your Lima hotel and transferred to Paracas. Upon arrival to Paracas, you will then begin an adventurous boat trip to the nearby Ballestas Islands, an important sanctuary for marine life and made possible by the Humboldt Current. On the way to the islands, you’ll also see the Candelabra, a nearly 595-foot (181-meter) long, candlestick-shaped symbol etched into the side of a hill that can be seen from the sea. During the tour, you can get up close and personal with marine birds and sea lions. Some of the unique bird species you might see include the Humboldt Penguin and the Peruvian Booby which only live along the Humboldt Current, as well as the Guanay Cormorant and the Red-legged Cormorant. Depending on the season, you’ll see sea lions playing with their young or simply frolicking on the rocks. 

After the boat excursion, you will then get a chance to explore the Paracas National Reserve. The tour begins with a visit to the reserve’s interpretation center. Here you will learn about the history and culture of the reserve.

You’ll stop at the turritellas, which are fossilized remains of sea snails that are now embedded into the ground. This whole area was once underwater, and the turritellas are a good reminder of this. The tour also visits The Cathedral. This million-year-old rock formation is set just off the coast but was unfortunately destroyed by an earthquake in 2007. The base of the formation, however, can still be seen.

You’ll explore the beautiful beaches of Playa Lagunilla, Red, and Yumaque. These beaches are very picturesque and are a good place to watch the waves roll in. After the tour, you will be transferred back to your hotel in Paracas.

Day 4: Nazca Lines & Huacachina Adventure: Paracas - Pisco - Huacachina - Lima

Aerial view of the Nazca Lines
Aerial view of the Nazca Lines

This morning you will leave your hotel in Paracas and head to the Pisco airport. From here you will take a 90-minute flight south aboard a 12-passenger Cessna Grand Caravan to view the sprawling Nazca Lines. You will get a chance to see many of the most famous geoglyphs, including the hummingbird, dog, tree, whale, lizard, and more.

These massive images, the longest of which are  1,200 ft (370 m), vary from geometric lines to figures of animals and people. Due to the stable environment of the Nazca desert, these geoglyphs—which were created by removing the top layer of iron-oxide coated pebbles to reveal the light-colored clay underneath—have been remarkably well preserved.  

After the flight head to Huacachina for an adventure in the desert sand dunes. Hop on a sandboard to surf down the larger dunes. 

In the evening, transfer to your hotel in Lima.

Day 5: Departing Lima

Evening view of the Coastline in Lima
Evening view of the Coastline in Lima

Today, you will be met at your hotel for a transfer to the Lima Airport for your flight back home. ¡Buen viaje!

Deborah
Written by Deborah Hayman, updated Mar 18, 2019