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Did you know the oldest winery in the Americas is in Peru? There are also wild sea lions and a hidden oasis in the desert sand dunes. All of these are included in this easy weekend trip from Lima.
After being in a city of 8 million for over two weeks, I really needed to take a weekend trip from Lima to escape the noise and pollution. Of course, I decided to see the Islas Ballestas and Huacachina Oasis that I had heard so much about.
Weekend trips from Lima are kind of few and far between, but we had an awesome time on this one and I recommend the getaway to anyone visiting or living in the city.
Ready to see it for yourself? Use this guide to find everything you need to know for an awesome weekend trip from Lima.
Day One – Lima to Paracas
Our first stop on our weekend trip from Lima was the Islas Ballestas in Paracas.
They are a four hour bus ride from Peru. We caught the bus on a Friday afternoon at the Soyuz bus station on Avenida Mexico, where the Soyuz and Peru Bus lines both run. They leave every 15 to 20 minutes on the Lima to Ica route and cost 40 soles / 12 usd per person.
The bus dropped us off in Pisco, and from there we had to take another 20 minute and 25 sole / 8 usd taxi ride to Paracas, a small town right on the water. It has a tiny beach front and a strip of restaurants on the ocean.
We met up with our friends, grabbed dinner and a few drinks, and called it a night.
Day Two – Islas Ballestas and Huacachina Oasis
The next morning, we woke up for the 10 am Islas Ballestas tour. The tour cost 25 soles / 8 usd, and it is super easy to buy tickets at any of the hostels or agencies around the square. We walked to the pier right in the center of the small town and loaded up on the small boat.
The Islas Ballestas are called the poor man’s Galapagos, but honestly, I think that’s a bit of a stretch. The tour was just… ok.
Some factors into my less than enthusiastic review include a hangover on a choppy boat, crowded and uncomfortable seating, crappy gray weather, and worst of all the absolutely horrible and strong smell of exhaust that engulfed us whenever the boat stopped to point out birds or animals.
The stench was unpleasant and definitely impacted my enjoyment of the trip.
However, there were still a few highlights.
Most notably was the teeny tiny penguins who lived up on the rock cliffs with the birds and of course, the sea lions. These fuzzy and strange creatures were such a delight to see up close, even though in the back of my mind I felt awful for being complicit in bringing so much horrible exhaust and boat fumes into their habitats.
The boat tour was two hours total, and we saw the birds, penguins, and sea lions for about 30 to 45 minutes of the trip.
My Tips for your Weekend Trip from Lima
If you decide to do the Islas Ballestas tours, my tips would be to bring warm clothes because the boat ride is cold and the wind is strong.
Also, if I did it again I would have spent both nights of the weekend in the Huacachina Oasis instead of staying in Paracas for the first one. Then, I could have booked the tour through an agency in Huacachina to take us out to the Islas Ballestas and back in one half-day trip instead.
Finally, if you’re really into wildlife you can also add on a second trip to the Paracas National Reserve after your island tour. This is 5 more hours, but only costs an extra 15 soles / 5 usd.
How to Get from Paracas to the Huacachina Oasis
After the Islas Ballestas tour in Paracas and lunch in town, we started the next leg of our weekend trip from Lima.
This time it was off to the Huacachina Oasis. To get to the oasis from Paracas, we waved down a taxi to take us to the Pisco bus station.
Although the bus station was in the opposite direction that we wanted to go, it was cheaper to take the bus than the 110 soles / 35 usd taxi ride to Ica.
At the bus station, we bought tickets for 5 soles / 1.50 usd each for the one-hour route to Ica, the large city that Huacachina lies just outside of.
Photos of the Huacachina Oasis may seem like it’s in the middle of nowhere, but in reality it’s only a 5 minute taxi ride from the Ica bus station.
Huacachina is a small little town built around a small little lake. The town and lake are surrounded by looming sand dunes on almost all sides, and it has a really awesome and lively atmosphere on the weekends.
This oasis has markets, shops, restaurants, palm trees, a shaded walk, and more to explore. It was never at the top of my bucket list but surprisingly it’s been one of my favorite destinations in the country.
While the Islas Ballestas left me disappointed, the Huacachina Oasis made up for it and is a perfect weekend trip from Lima if you want to just chill and relax.
We stayed in the Carola hostel and spent the afternoon lounging in our swim suits by the large pool and enjoying the sun.
Later, we climbed up onto the sand dunes to enjoy the sunset, and then ate an awesome dinner and delicious wings at the Huacachina Backpackers House.
Our hostel warned us they were going to be partying in their bar until 6am, and they didn’t disappoint. Music blasted and the club filled up until sunrise.
Day Three – Sandboarding, Dune Buggies, & the Tacama Winery
I’m not going to lie, day three of our weekend trip from Lima was off to a slow start. We woke up and ate a late breakfast, then split up for the afternoon. My friends decided to try out the sand boarding and dune buggies, while we went off to the Tacama Winery.
The sand boarding and dune buggy tours leave every morning at 10:30 and every afternoon at 4:30. They cost 35 soles / 11 usd each and are two hours of riding around on the surrounding dunes and boarding down them at sunset. This tour is one of the most popular in Huacachina and seems like a blast.
However, we opted to hit up the Tacama Winery instead and I’m so glad we did.
This winery is the oldest vineyard in the Americas. It was founded by the Spanish Conquistadores in the 1540’s and has been continuously run ever since. The winery is also so beautiful that it is regularly used for weddings and events, and I can definitely see why.
The entrance is a long tree covered lane lined with flowers, and the winery itself is surrounded by a lush green lawn and colorful gardens. Inside we did the 10 sole / 3 usd tour and tasting, and were able to see the old monastery, chapel, and courtyard as well.
The best part about the Tacama winery (which also serves Pisco, the national liquor of Peru) is that the bottles were delicious and cheap at only 22 soles / 7 usd each. The four of us split a bottle of red and white while sitting out on the lawn, breathing the fresh air and watching the sun begin to set.
The only complaint I had is that the winery closed at 5:30 and we had to leave… even though it is probably for the best. The vineyard is secluded so they even called a taxi for us to take us back to the Ica bus station.
Passport Theft on our Weekend Trip from Lima
From the Ica bus station it was time to head home, and we took the 8pm bus for 25 soles / 8 usd back to Lima. The five hour ride was uneventful for us, but not my friend.
She was on the 7 pm bus after sand boarding, and unfortunately her boyfriend’s backpack containing one phone, two laptops, and both their passports was stolen from under the seat while they were asleep.
This devastating discovery has been tough, and means they’re going to be stuck in Lima for two weeks instead of two days while they work on getting their passports replaced at the US Embassy. If you have valuable stuff in your bags on the busses in Peru, make sure you keep them on your laps or under your feet at all times, because losing a passport is every traveler’s worst nightmare.
All in all, and besides this (pretty major) setback with the passports, the Islas Ballestas, Huacachina Oasis, and Tacama Winery were the perfect weekend trip from Lima.
They are situated close together and super easy and cheap to get to from the city. If you’re looking for a quick escape, definitely don’t miss this weekend trip from Lima on your way through Peru.
PS looking for more to do in the capital city? Learn how to spend a day in the artsy Barranco neighborhood or check out my three favorite restaurants in Surco. Or, take an 8-hour bus ride to the mountain town of Huaraz for hiking, mountain climbing, multi-day trekking and more!