In the dusty coastal plain some four hours’ drive south of Lima lie the ancient man-made wonder of the Nasca Lines, one of the most enigmatic sites of all South America. Stretching over a huge area of barren desert, the Nasca lines comprise of a series of huge geoglyphs etched into the desert sands depicting all manner of weird and wonderful shapes from simple geometric lines to recognisable monkeys, spiders and hummingbirds. Though little is known about the origins of the site, it is believed that the shapes were traced into the landscape by the Nasca civilisation some 1800 years ago. Today, there are a number of viewing platforms dotted around the landscape though the lines are best viewed from above via a short overflight that can be organised from the towns of Ica or Nasca.
A short distance away is the Paracas National Reserve, a stretch of dramatic coastline and home to the spectacular Ballestas Islands. Dubbed the “mini-Galapagos”, the islands were originally at the centre of the Peru’s guano industry and now provide safe haven to a dizzying array of sea birds and marine life from Humboldt penguins and sea-lions to frigate birds and blue-footed boobies. The Ballestas Islands are reached by a one hour boat trip from the town and coastal resort of Paracas and takes visitors right under the shadow of the huge “Candelabro” cactus petroglyph, iconic symbol of Peru’s southern coast.