Peru Arrival and Paracas

Chad and I have developed a bit of vocabulary to describe various phenomena we’ve experienced on our travels. One such term we call the “Japan effect.” It refers to our experience in 2019 being disappointed by Bangkok and Bali following five weeks in Japan. While they had several qualities we generally don’t like regardless of where we’re coming from (hot, crowded, lots of hustlers trying to sell to you), we felt like they probably suffered from the direct comparison with Japan, which we absolutely loved.

As you might guess from my last two posts, we really loved Argentina too. So it wasn’t really a surprise that our first days in Peru were a bit marred by the Japan effect. Still, having the term and understanding the phenomenon helped us look past it and have a pretty good first few days in Peru.

Arriving in Lima

Our 5-hour flight from Buenos Aires on LATAM was excellent. Everything was on time and I’d paid a little extra for Premium Economy because with all our luggage it wasn’t a huge price difference. We flew out of Jorge Newbery Airport, which is Buenos Aires’ smaller international airport, and unfortunately it didn’t have a lounge. But we found a cute little restaurant to work in over wine and empanadas and passed the time well.

Because our flight was arriving so late (8 p.m.) and we’d only be staying in Lima a single night before heading to Paracas, I prioritized booking a hotel near to the airport over neighborhood considerations. The hotel we ended up with (no review because we had a mixed experience and the employees were nice so I don’t want to leave anything negative) was ok – clean enough, had a functioning fan (though AC would have been helpful), and nice front desk staff as I mentioned – there wasn’t a lot in the neighborhood for food and drink. I didn’t have any cash yet and the one little minimarket within a 10-minute walk, located behind cage doors, couldn’t accept credit cards (an issue with her phone). We tried a loud restaurant we passed knowing we needed to eat something before bed (the empanadas were many hours before) and luckily they did accept credit cards so we had a so-so first meal of grilled chicken and french fries (though my first credit card didn’t work so Chad had to run back to the hotel for others; luckily the next we tried did). Overall it wasn’t an auspicious start to Peru.

The next morning we took an Uber to the Cruz del Sur bus station where I had reserved the front two seats on the second floor of the bus to Paracas. Our plan was to have a healthy meal before boarding our 11 a.m. bus but there wasn’t a lot around there either so we had to make do with snacks from the gas station across the street (these were reasonably good – I got a sandwich and Chad some yogurt, so not too unhealthy). I was also finally able to get some Peruvian soles from an ATM at the bus station. The bus station itself was nice and modern with clean restrooms and we really liked that Cruz del Sur does luggage checking like an airline so we were able to turn in our suitcases before we went in search of snacks.

Our bus ride to Paracas was very comfortable, even though it was over 3 hours long, and we enjoyed the front seats. But on arrival there were no taxis at the Paracas bus station and Google maps put the walk to our hotel at 22 minutes, which wouldn’t be pleasant with all our luggage. A tour guide offered us a ride if we would buy his boat tour for the next morning, but I hate that kind of pressure. So we started walking toward town. Luckily a car stopped almost immediately and offered to be a taxi for 10 soles (under $3), which we gratefully accepted. The hotel’s location on Google maps was completely wrong (which was good, because it was closer to the main part of town, which was handy) but luckily the taxi driver knew exactly where it was.

Check in had its own issues. I reserved and paid for 2 nights at the hotel with points through my Chase Sapphire card, but the front desk person said they couldn’t accept that payment and wanted me to pay again. It was unprofessional (they shouldn’t be on the platform if they can’t take its payment) but I didn’t want to find a new hotel after 3+ hours on the bus and it was only $23 a night so I paid for one but didn’t commit to the second. If we were going to have to pay again anyway, we might find something better for the second night and possibly beyond. We had two flexible nights between Paracas and our Lima Airbnb reservation and were considering extending our stay in Paracas or visiting another town in the area.

Paracas Impressions

After dropping off our luggage in our room for the night, we headed out to check out the town of Paracas. It had a nice little beach but was pretty crowded. But it was nice seeing the ocean and all the families and we shared a refreshing mango raspidilla (Peruvian shaved ice). Paracas definitely has a vacation-town vibe, which was nice.

After a little rest in our room, we went out again to find a cocktail and dinner. We chose a cute little bar on the end of the waterfront called Bruce’s and tried our first Peruvian pisco sour (pisco, lime, egg whites, bitters) and chilcano (pisco, lime, and ginger ale). Tasty but not our favorites. For dinner we chose a rooftop restaurant called Restaurant Paracas for the view and because they had a sign highlighting vegan food. But, we succumbed to our surroundings and went for traditional Peruvian seafood instead – leche de tigre (like ceviche but made from the leftovers) and seafood rice. Both were tasty, the service was good, and we enjoyed the view. 

Paracas Day 2

After one evening in Paracas, we had decided not to stay or even try to check out another town. We were ready to settle in Lima, mostly because we both had a lot of work we were eager to get to. So I adjusted our Airbnb reservation to start two days earlier and booked our bus ticket to Lima, choosing the front seats again.

We started the morning by streaming the Liverpool match, which was a solid 4-1 win and very fun to watch. Then we took a walk to try to find a new hotel. I looked at availability and reviews on but we wanted to book in person and ideally get a place that was available to move in right away. Our second visit was to Hospedaje Welcome Paracas and while they didn’t have a room, their next-door property did. 

We were shown the room and promised to bring a fan and that we could use the balcony space right outside, assuring us it would be quiet with only one other couple in the building. The price was only $3 more than our current place and though the room was much smaller, it was very clean. So we went back and packed up and made the move, then went out for brunch at a health-food restaurant called Fruzon. It was very tasty.

There wasn’t a lot more to see in Paracas beyond doing the boat ride to Islas Ballestas. We decided to book that through the hotel manager for the next morning before our bus to Lima and spent most of the afternoon working, reading, and resting. We could have gone to the beach or taken a bus to some other sightseeing, but chose to take it easy instead. 

That evening we went out for another round of a pisco sour and a chilcano, this time from Karambe restaurant near the beach. This time we got them maracuya (passion fruit) flavored and they were so delicious. Chad declared the maracuya sour to be one of his new favorite cocktails. We also ordered a fun traditional Peruvian appetizer, chalaquita de mariscos, chopped seafood, red onion, and tomato seasoned and served in clam shells. They were very tasty.

For dinner we went back to Restaurant Paracas and this time did try their vegan offerings, chaufa rice with fake meat and a salad with avocado. It was tasty again and at the end of our meal our waiter asked if we wanted to see something amazing. He said in the building they had a “time machine” with animatronics modeled on what you might experience in Orlando USA (i.e. Disney) recounting the history of this part of Peru. Chad was skeptical but he had me at time machine and I enthusiastically wanted to go. He added the ticket price (25 soles or $7 each) to our bill and had us wait while he set it up, since he would also be the operator of the time machine. When he was ready he texted a colleague to show us the way.

The Time Machine was interesting and informative and the owner clearly put a lot of time and thought into it. It was like a large round elevator without walls. There were about four rows of benches and room for probably 20 people to sit but it was just the two of us. The waiter/operator took us up to the floor where it started and the room rotated through the scenes then down a level and through some more scenes. It was also kitschy and campy and strange. We loved it. It may have been the highlight of our time in Paracas.

Boat to Islas Ballestas

But the next morning it was time to experience the main attraction in Paracas, the boat tour to the Islas Ballestas. They call these the “poor man’s Galapagos” because they’re isolated from the mainland and home to lots of interesting birds. And sea lions! They used to have penguins but unfortunately we learned that the population was decimated by bird flu the year before, so we didn’t see any.

The boat tour was another strange and surreal experience but since this post is already much longer than I intended, I think I’ll leave the mystery intact and let the photos tell the story.


After the boat tour we had just enough time to return to the hotel and finish packing, pick up some food and sandwiches for the bus, and find a taxi to take us back to the bus station. Our time in Peru got a bit of a rough start but gave us a good taste of this country, emphasis on “taste” – trying the unique Peruvian food and cocktails was definitely the highlight of our first few days. While we definitely weren’t falling in love with Peru the way we almost immediately did with Argentina, we were keeping an open mind.

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