The city of Ica is set in the middle of dune-filled deserts, 160 mi/260 km southeast of Lima, on the banks of the Ica River. It is locally renowned for its grapes, wineries and pisco distilleries (tours can be arranged). The grape-harvest season runs February-April. The surrounding desert sand dunes are popular with sandboarders, particularly in the oasis of Huacachina.

The Regional Museum in town has Nazca, Paracas and Inca artifacts (we particularly liked the mummies). Nearby is the Paracas National Reserve, the best shorebird sanctuary in South America. It's also home to Andean condors, as well as sea lions.

Paracas is on the Pacific coast, 32 mi/60 km west of Ica. Several international resorts operate on the coast of Paracas and have turned it into a base for exploring the surrounding region. A few miles/kilometers north of Paracas, the Ballestas Islands, with literally millions of seabirds including Humboldt penguins, can be visited by boat tours (landing is prohibited). Plan at least one night, more if you want to visit wineries, see seabird sanctuaries and go sandboarding.

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