Our Cruz del Sur bus was scheduled to arrive in Paracas at 7:05am, but didn’t end up arriving until 9:15am! This was problematic since we had arranged a tour to the Ballatas Islands at 8am and a tour to the national reserve at 11am.
Katie had some trouble sleeping as her back kept hurting. The speed indicator would beep every time the bus went over 90 km/h, which got really annoying. Additionally, it got really hot in the bus. Finally, some guy’s cell phone kept ringing. These problems were not as bad as the kids on our previous night bus, but they were still annoying and led to somewhat poor sleep.
We walked to Paracas Backpackers House (Booking.com), which we had arranged our tours through since they offered the cheapest tours we could find listed online. We explained that our bus from Arequipa had arrived terribly late, so Alberto (the manager at Paracas Backpackers House) said we would need to choose between seeing the Ballatas Islands on a 10am to 12pm tour or seeing the national reserve on an 11am to 3pm tour (or seeing the islands and then booking a private tour of the national reserve). We opted for the 10am boat tour to Ballatas Islands (30 soles + 7 soles dock fee per person).
Someone came to collect us from Paracas Backpackers House at 9:50am. We walked over to the port with her, paid our 7 soles dock fee, and then got on a boat that seemed to contain a Peruvian high school group. Originally we sat in the back row, but the guide moved us up to the third tow on the left side of the boat (sitting on the left is better than the right for views). We took off soon after, traveling 30-40 minutes to get to the Ballatas Islands. Along the way we saw plenty of birds (some flying in formation) and a few sea lions swimming. Once we got to the islands, it became clear from the smell why they were white. Apparently people are allowed to come collect the droppings every 7 years.
The Ballatas Islands were amazing. In addition to the many birds, we also saw many sea lions, Humboldt penguins, crabs, and orange starfish. All in all, it was an awesome experience.
Once we got off the boat, we shortly attempted to see if any group tours left for the national reserve after noon. We quickly learned that all group tours left at 11am and that a private taxi tour would cost 70 soles + entrance fees and would not have a driver that could speak English. We instead opted to just relax in Paracas until our 7:05pm bus.
We went to have lunch at Sandra’s, a restaurant stall near (but not on) the beach. It was recommended by Alberto, but we thought it was expensive for what we got. Katie got fried shrimp with french fries (30 soles) and JT got fish ceviche (25 soles). The shrimp was whole shrimp being fried in the exact state that they were taken from the ocean it seemed. Hence, they were difficult to eat, and any fried matter was gone before getting to the meat. The ceviche had too many bad parts and was poorly sliced – JT thought it seemed like they cut up a whole fish and just added juice. Overall, it was a disappointing experience.
Then we headed back to Paracas Backpacker House. They let us chill in their common areas (the shaded patio with hammocks and comfortable chairs was great), use their facilities, and charge our phones for no fee since we arranged our tours through them. We gave them a tip though, since we did spend most of the afternoon there and they made us feel at home. The rooms near reception seem to be the shared bathroom rooms, and they look simple but comfortable. The showers and bathrooms were clean when we visited. Overall a great experience, and we would stay here if spending a night in Paracas.
For dinner we walked to a food cart in the plaza across from Paracas Backpacker House just before 6pm. Katie had two hot dogs cut up over fries (which was delicious) while JT had a hamburger stuffed with fries. All of this was just 5 soles!
Soon after, we removed our luggage from the storage lockers at Paracas Backpacker House and walked to the Cruz del Sur bus station (which is really just an outdoor waiting area).
The bus arrived a bit early, and left right on time. About 15 people exited the bus (coming from Nazca), and one person besides us got on. Although this bus was still of the ‘Cruzero Tour Peru’ style, this time we rode upstairs. The seats upstairs were smaller, reclined to 130 degrees, and were slightly less comfortable than downstairs, but we got two discounted seats (one for 22 soles and one for 39 soles) and are not relying on getting a night’s rest this leg, so the savings seemed worth it. The upstairs area was relatively empty. It takes about 4 hours to get from Paracas to Lima by bus.