Formed by coastal plains, the Ica Region is most famous for the mysterious Nazca Lines – a series of geoglyphs depicting animals and people that stretch for miles in the desert and can only be viewed from above. A popular destination for those with an interest in archaeology and wildlife, the Ica Region is home to a cemetery dating back to 1000 AD, rugged coastline, small rocky islands and an abundance of marine mammals and sea birds.
Sitting in the shadow of the Misti volcano, UNESCO-listed Arequipa – Peru’s second largest city – is dominated by a dramatic landscape of snow-capped volcanoes and colossal canyons. Dubbed ‘The White City’ due to its striking white volcanic rock buildings, historic highlights include the Jesuit Church of La Compañia with its intricately carved façade and the Santuarios Andinos Museum which houses the mummified remains of an Inca girl. Arequipa is the ideal place to acclimatise before heading to Colca and Titicaca.
The world’s second deepest canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and winds its way through a valley beneath a dramatic landscape of steep pre-Inca agricultural terraces backed by towering mountains. An early morning visit to Cruz del Condor offers staggering views and a chance to see the majestic Andean condor soaring high in the skies. The area offers a fantastic range of sightseeing, but altitudes of up to 3650 metres, so it is necessary to acclimatise before visiting Colca.
If you've already discovered Peru's most famous attractions or you are looking for an alternative destination that is less travelled, then this region is ideal. Let us tailor make your perfect Peru itinerary and discover the very best of this fascinating region and incredible country.
Ica Region, Arequipa & Colca holiday highlights
The rugged south coast is home to the beautiful Paracas National Reserve which covers 700,000 acres of coastline, desert and mountains. The reserve encompasses the Paracas Peninsula – Peru’s only marine reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as the remote Ballestas Islands – known as 'Peru’s Galapagos’. These small rocky islands boast a large sea lion colony, Humboldt penguins and fur seals while the desert reserve is home to an abundance of wildlife including penguins, sea lions, whales, dolphins and migratory seabirds.
Stretching hundreds of miles across the Nazca plains, a giant hummingbird and monkey, are among a series of other figures and lines that are etched into the arid surface, forming the world-famous Nazca Lines. Considered one of the world’s greatest archaeological mysteries, these ancient geoglyphs are believed to date back to 400 BC but were only discovered in 1939. Theories explaining their origin range from the plausible – for astronomical or religious purposes – to the absurd – as an attempt to contact aliens, but the true purpose of these enigmatic lines remains a mystery.
19 miles south of Nazca you will find the remarkable Chauchilla Cemetery which is home to prehistoric mummies that have been preserved by the arid climate of the Peruvian desert. Disturbed by looters in the 1920s, the cemetery is now a protected site.
Pisco & Ica
The small coastal town of Pisco is best known for the grape brandy called Pisco which is used in the nation’s famous cocktail – the Pisco Sour and it is an ideal base for discovering the region’s Inca ruins and the incredible wildlife in nearby Paracas. An hour southeast of Pisco lies Ica, a small town renowned for its wineries. Taste the region’s pisco and wines on a tour of a local winery and distillery, and enjoy sand-boarding and dune buggies in the Oasis of Huacachina – a tiny town edging a lagoon surrounded by towering dunes that emerges from thedesert like a mirage.