Along the coast, south of Lima, Peruâ€™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 Peruâ€™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 Peruâ€™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.
Upon re-declaring her independence at age 29, Lorraine Caputo packed her trusty Rocinante (so her knapsack's called) and began...