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Pacific Coast South of Lima

Along the coast, south of Lima, Peru’s desert continues. Here, though, it is more solitary, with few large cities marring the vast stretches of beige sand. Green bands of vegetation ribbon the river valleys. In these rich valleys, the Spaniards established great olive plantations and vineyards, which still produce to this day. The region is the heart of Peru’s pisco and wine production, especially near Ica and Moquegua.

Like other parts of Peru, the southern coast is covered with the remains of past civilizations: the Paracas and the Nasca, both of whom created beautiful pottery and weaving. The Nasca culture also left behind the enigmatic lines that bear their name and seashell-shaped aqueducts that spiral precious moisture to farm fields. The southern desert was also conquered by the great Wari (Huari), Tiwanaku and Inca empires.

The heart of the desert, especially near Huacachina Oasis and Nasca, provides opportunities for sandboarding and other desert sports. The coastal fringe is protected by several national parks, like Reserva Nacional de Paracas and Reserva Nacional San Fernando, and the off-shore islands by the Reserva Nacional Sistema de Islas, Islotes y Puntas Guaneras, which includes Islas Ballestas. These reserves and places like Humedales de Ite near Tacna are home to large bird and sea lion colonies.

Huacachina Oasis and Paracas have become the most popular destinations in Peru’s southern coast region, surpassing even Nasca and its famous lines. Travelers wanting to get off the beaten track can stop and savor the other cities and their treasures that are virtually ignored.

By Lorraine Caputo

Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...

24 Apr 2012

Outdoor Activities on the Southern Coast

Sandboarding in the Ica Desert

You\'ve most definitely heard of surfing and skiing, and probably snowboarding, but sandboarding? Believe it or not, one of the most popular activities in southern Peru’s Ica Desert is surfing the ...
Adventure Tour

Places to stay on Peru's Southern Coast

Posada del Sol

Hotel Posada del Sol is a tall monument a few blocks from the Plaza de Armas and bus depots. The rooms are very large, bright and shiny clean. They all come with private, hot water baths and TV. ...
Ica, Peru

Hostal AlegrĂ­a

102771Hostal AlegrĂ­a is a perennial favorite with travelers staying in Nasca. This cozy hotel offers 60 spacious, airy rooms, all with cable TV and private bathrooms featuring solar-heated water. Some ...
Nasca, Peru

Casa Andina Nasca

Done out in coastal architecture, Casa Andina’s Nasca offering comes with 60 rooms, all tastefully furnished. The hotel has the benefit of cable TV in all rooms, breakfast buffet and an outdoor ...
Nasca, Peru

HosterĂ­a Suiza

Upon walking in Hostería Suiza, you feel relaxed and at home. Owned by Heidi Baumgartner, daughter of Swiss hoteliers, this place was once her family’s retreat at the oasis. The hotel has cozy ...
Huacachina Oasis, Peru

Hospedaje Shalom

No sign announces Hospedaje Shalom’s presence. It is the unassuming building to the left of the Hotel Gran Palma. This sets the scene for Shalom: A simple, 16-room hostel run by friendly Doña ...

Hostal Los Frayles

Hostal Los Frayles’ 11 rooms are medium-sized, clean and nicely decorated. All have private bath with hot and cold water showers. Windows are screened. A few sport TVs, for those visitors who think ...

Hospedaje Loreto

Inexpensive lodging is a bit hard to find in Ica. Hospedaje Loreto is one of the cheapest. The staff is friendly, though they don’t quite seem to know what to do with foreigners. Most of this ...
Ica, Peru

La HosterĂ­a del Monasterio

La Hostería del Monasterio combines the style of colonial-era monasteries with modern conveniences. Its rooms—for one to three travelers—are simply furnished and spacious, each with its own ...
Pisco, Peru

Hostal Sol de Nasca

Hostal Sol de Nasca is a budget traveler’s choice in the crowded Nasca lodging market. Located midways between the bus stations and the Plaza de Armas, this inn is convenient for walking around the ...
Nasca, Peru

Hospedaje Estrellita Del Sur

Hospedaje Estrellita del Sur is another well-placed hotel in the city, between downtown and the bus depots. Rooms vary in size but they and the adjoining private baths are immaculately clean. All ...
Nasca, Peru

Hospedaje Bon Ami

Otherwise known as Buen Amigo, Hospedaje Bon Amigo proves to be a good friend in Tacna. These accommodations have built-in closets (to stow the backpack out of the way) and decent beds, making it a ...
Tacna, Peru

Peru's Southern Coast Towns

The Nasca Lines

101571An Ancient MysteryAges ago, a mysterious culture etched thousands of figures and shapes into the barren desert rock outside of the present-day town of Nasca, Peru. No one knows for certain why these ...
Major Attraction, City
Around Nasca, Nasca, Peru


144514Altitude: 2,180 meters (7,107 ft) Population: 6,600 Phone Code: 053 Torata is a small town with several fascinating sites. Iglesia de San AgustĂ­n, a beautiful, polished-granite temple, was built ...
Torata, Peru


144488(Altitude: 1,410 m / 4,625 ft, Population: 170,480, City Code: 053) Amidst crinkled desert hills lies the oasis city Moquegua. This little-visited town on the RĂ­o Moquegua is a refreshing ...
Moquegua, Peru


Altitude: 0 to 786 meters (0 to 2,562 ft) Population: 1,265 Phone Code: 056 Paracas consists of a peninsula, bay, pre-Inca culture and the national reserve (Reserva Nacional de Paracas). It is ...
Region, City

Huacachina Oasis

Altitude: 1,430 meters (4,647 ft) Population: 4,415 Phone Code: 056 Located just 5 kilometers (3 mi) outside of Ica, this small oasis consists of a quiet lagoon surrounded by sand dunes, palm ...
Huacachina Oasis, Peru


Altitude: 17 meters (56 ft) Population: 54,193 Phone Code: 056 Pisco lays midway between the Pan-American Highway and the coast. Once upon a time, it was a small fishing village that was the ...
Pisco, Peru


Altitude: 550 meters (1,804 ft) Population: 242,451 Phone Code: 052Located 36 kilometers (22 mi) from the Chilean border, and 56 kilometers (34 mi) from the port of Arica, Tacna is an important ...
Tacna, Peru


102754 (Altitude: 588 meters / 1911 feet, Population: 25,125, Phone Code: 056) The town of Nasca is a dusty outpost in the San José desert. The town and area would be unremarkable if it were not ...
Nasca, Peru


Altitude: 406 meters (1,320 ft) Population: 152,000 Phone Code: 056 Ica is a beautiful, palm-treed city in a green river valley surrounded by the Ica Desert. This wonderful city stands out, ...
Ica, Peru


Altitude: 5 meters (16 ft) Population: 82,000 Phone Code: 053This part of Peru’s southern coast has been inhabited for over 13,000 years. Today, this area is dominated by the city Ilo. Despite ...
Ilo, Peru
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