A cluster of tiny islands off the Peruvian coast, the Ballestas Islands (Islas Ballestas) are often touted as the “Peruvian Galapagos,” famed for their spectacular variety of birdlife and rugged coastline of soaring cliffs, rocky beaches, and remote sea caves.
It’s possible to visit the Ballestas Islands on a 2-hour speedboat tour from Paracas or combine a scenic boat ride with a private tour of the mainland Paracas National Reserve. If you’re visiting from Lima, a full-day Ballestas Islands tour typically takes in the highlights of the Paracas peninsula before continuing to nearby sights like Chincha, the Nazca Lines, or the Huacachina sand dunes.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Ballestas Islands are only reachable by boat, and landing on the protected islands is prohibited.
- Be sure to pack sunblock as there is no shade on the boat, and also bring a wind or waterproof jacket.
- Boat excursions take place on small open-air boats and you may get splashed with spray, so consider bringing a change of clothes.
How to Get There
The Ballestas Islands are located along the Pacific Coast of Peru and the closest mainland town is Paracas, Pisco, in the Ica region. The only way to visit is on a boat tour, leaving from San Martin Port in Paracas and typically lasting two hours. From Lima, it’s about a 4-hour drive south to Paracas.
When to Get There
December to February is the most popular time to visit the islands, and it coincides with the breeding season for the local sea lion population. But it’s worth a visit anytime of the year, barring extreme weather conditions.
Ballestas Islands Wildlife
Wildlife lovers will be in their element on a Ballestas Islands tour—the rocky islands are home to thousands of birds, sea lions, and penguins. As you pass the landmark Candelabra rock formations and cruise around the islands, look out for Peruvian pelicans, red-legged cormorants, Inca terns, and Peruvian boobies, as well as the island’s famous colony of Humboldt penguins.