Ica, a small city located 4 hours south of Lima, is often overshadowed by its neighboring towns, namely Paracas and Huacachina. Stunning oasis, beautiful oceans, desolate deserts, those are just some of the best places to see in Ica. The town itself is also one of the best places to observe local Peruvian lives and culture, something that is hard to do if you stay on big cities.
Ica was first settled as early as 10,000 years ago and then inhabited by a succession of advanced cultures, including the Paracas, Nasca, Wari, and Ica civilizations. The Inca Pachacútec incorporated the Ica, Nazca, and Chincha valley territories in the 15th century, but by the mid–16th century, the Spaniards had arrived, and Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera founded the Villa de Valverde del Valle de Ica, which grew in importance as a commercial center for wine and cotton production.
Ica is a surprisingly large and bustling town, given the scorching desert sun its inhabitants have to contend with. The city itself is not worth much exploration, as most of the principal attractions are located beyond the town center. Ica is known primarily for its bodegas, wineries that produce a range of wines and pisco, the white-grape spirit that is the essential ingredient in the national drink, the ubiquitous pisco sour (served as a welcome drink at bars, hotels, and restaurants throughout Peru).
The Nazca Lines are a collection of giant geoglyphs designs or motifs etched into the ground located in the Peruvian coastal plain about 250 miles (400 kilometers) south of Lima, Peru. Created by the ancient Nazca culture in South America, and depicting various plants, animals, and shapes, the 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines can only be fully appreciated when viewed from the air given their massive size. Despite being studied for over 80 years, the geoglyphs which were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 are still a mystery to researchers.
Visiting the Paracas National Reserve. It is a place unlike any other place in the world, a place where the turquoise ocean meets the orange, desolate desert. You can find many tours in the town of Paracas. These tours are usually the ones that drop you off at the viewpoints, give you 20 minutes, then you get on the bus, and they take you to the other viewpoints. If you are adventurous and reasonably fit, consider renting a bicycle and riding it across the desert.
Ballestas Islands, otherwise known as the “Poor Man’s Galapagos”, are a group of rocky islands located 24 km (15 mi) off the coast of Paracas. Home to many animals such as penguins, sea lions, blue-footed boobies, and many more, the Ballestas Islands are some of the best places to catch a glimpse of the various species of wildlife in South America.
Huacachina oasis is the only desert oasis in South America and definitely one of the top things to do in Peru. Huacachina Lagoon, a pretty and unexpected oasis amid palm trees and dunes on the outskirts of Ica, connected only by one tiny road with the city of Ica, Huacachina feels like you are in the middle of the desert. You are completely surrounded by beautiful sand dunes on all sides. Some of the most popular activities in Huacachina include sandboarding and dune buggies. Tours for both can be found throughout the oasis.