On the southern coast of Peru, approximately four hours from the capital city of Lima, a gem of a location can be found. Ballestas Islands, or Islas Ballestas, comprise a group of small islands that are in close proximity to the town of Paracas, which lies in the Pisco Province of the Ica Region.
From Paracas, the islands can be reached by boat, with the journey lasting for approximately two hours. Ballestas Islands are also popularly called “The Poor Man’s Galapagos” because a visit to see the area can be quite inexpensive for adventurous traveler. The islands are best known for their marvelous seascape and diverse wildlife.
Shaped By Time
The Ballestas Islands are primarily made up of rock formations that have been shaped by the wind and waves over centuries. The rocks were eroded to form countless caves and natural arches that serve as a home to the bountiful wildlife in the area.
Due to the treacherous nature of these rock formations and to preserve the ecological environment of the area, tourists are not allowed to set foot on the islands. Despite this limitation, the view remains astounding even from the boat.
An Ecological Sanctuary
The islands, which cover an approximate area of 0.12 square kilometers, serve as an important haven for marine fauna. The area is the home of about 150 species of marine birds, which include Guanay cormorants, blue-footed boobies, condors, pelicans, and Humboldt penguins.
Birdwatchers would be pleased to know that on some islands, flocks of up to 600,000 birds can be seen flying about. It is a spectacular sight to behold.
Sea lions thrive on the islands where they usually give birth and rear their young. It is not uncommon for sea lions to approach tourist boats out of curiosity, and visitors would surely be delighted to see these creatures up close, frolicking in the waters and swimming near the boats.
Zarcillos and fur seals can also be found on the rocky enclaves of the islands, and out on the sea, dolphins and even whales can occasionally be observed.
Among the many mysteries that remain unsolved in Peru is El Candelabro. This is a large prehistoric geoglyph that measures an astounding 183 meters tall. It can be found on the side of a coastal hill as you approach the Ballestas Islands.
The geoglyph resembles a large candlestick that can clearly be seen even from a distance. The origin of El Candelabro remains unclear up to this day, and theories abound regarding its formation.
Two main theories exist. The first one relates this geoglyph to the famous Nazca Lines. The other theory, which is often told by the tour guides that bring visitors to see the islands, suggests that pirates carved El Candelabro to serve as a beacon and nautical guide in place of a lighthouse, which is why a candlestick was chosen as its form.
It is said that a dense fog often envelops the area, and having El Candelabro as a beacon helps pirates navigate the rocky shores.
Regardless of its origin, El Candelabro presents itself as a man-made marvel and an ancient puzzle that remains open to speculation even unto this day.
The Ballestas Islands are definitely among the best ecotourism destinations in the country of Peru. It offers scenic views, bountiful wildlife, and even a prehistoric mystery that collectively provide visitors with an experience that they won’t soon forget.
A visit to the southern Peruvian coast would not be complete without an exploration of these islands, and with relatively inexpensive tours being offered, you would only have to pay a small price for an amazing journey.