We took an overnight bus with Cruz del Sur, as they were running a promotion, from Trujillo and arrived in Pisco the next morning with no idea as to where to go. The first surprise was that the bus left us on the Pan-American outside Pisco, instead of dropping us off in town. We later learned that this apparently is the norm with every bus company.
We weren’t sure how to proceed and luckily saw a couple who were waiting for an onward bus, so I headed over to ask for advise. They were nice enough to not only tell us the prices of the taxis but to also recommend the hotel they had stayed in. Armed with the information we took a taxi and headed into town to look for somewhere to stay.
The first thing that hits you when you enter the town is how much destruction is still visible following the earthquake of 2007, where buildings once stood there are now pile of rubble or flat patches of land and roads are still obstructed with piles of bricks and building materials. Despite this you can also see how tourism is helping re-build the town as hotels seem to rise up from the rubble.
We drove around for a while and looked at a couple of places, but in the end settled on our suggestion, Hotel Residential San Jorge, as they offered the best price despite seemingly being a 3 star hotel. We were repeatedly advised not to go out at night as the town is not overly safe, and as such we headed out for a late lunch and to book a tour for the following day.
Pisco itself is not much more than a base for the nearby attractions, including the Ballestas Islands and the archaeological site of Tambo Colorado. After some negotiating we managed to book ourselves in for a morning tour of the islands followed by a private afternoon tour of Tambo Colorado, for 80 soles each. When you book the island tour you can opt to also do a tour of the Paracas National Reserve, but we decided to skip this.
At 7.30am the next day we were picked up and driven down to the town of Paracas, the launch off point for Ballestas Islands. After a quick registration and paying the 6 soles each for entry we were off by speed boat to the islands.
Before reaching the islands the tour stops at a nearby shore where the “Candelabra”, a large cactus shape is engraved in the sandy banks, similar to those of the Nazca lines. There are many theories on the origin and meaning, but the most impressive fact is that due to the extremely low annual rainfall, the shape has remained almost intact.
As you approach the islands you start to see why they are such an attraction. There are literally thousands of birds flying around, from Peruvian pelicans to Peruvian boobies to Guano Cormorants. Everywhere you look there are clouds of birds around you. However, the islands are also home to penguins and sea lions and we were lucky enough to spot a lone endangered South American fur seal on the rocks.
After our tour we were dropped off back in Pisco and grabbed a quick lunch before our next tour to Tambo Colorado.
Located 48km from Pisco, Tambo Colorado is supposedly one of the best preserved Inca sites along the coast of Peru. This is again due to the extremely low rain fall which has helped to not erode it.
Although not very big, the site is impressive due to the fact the walls have retained some of their original paint work. As you wander around from chamber to chamber you can still see the reds, oranges and whites that were once used to paint these walls.
Another impressive sight at Tambo Colorado is the women’s bath which is still almost entirely intact. You can still see where they would have heated the water and then poured it through into the bath. The original irrigation system is still very much in order.
You wont need more than an hour maximum at the site, including a quick look through the small museum, but it is worth seeing for the fact that it is still very much as it was during the Inca times.