South Coast

Shutterstock/8320975/Jarno Gonzalez ZarraonandiaThe Pan-American Highway runs all the way south from Lima to the Chilean border and the desert coast has some distinctive attractions. The most famous, and perhaps the strangest, are the enigmatic Nazca Lines, whose origin and function continue to puzzle scientists. More designs on the desert, plus tomb finds at neighbouring Palpa are casting new light on the mystery. Paracas Peninsula is one of the world's great marine bird reserves and was home to one of Peru's most important ancient civilizations. As you bob in a boat to the Ballestas Islands to watch the seabirds, look for the giant Candelabra, drawn on the cliffs by unknown hands.

Further south, the Ica Valley with its wonderful climate, is home to that equally wonderful grape brandy known as
pisco
. South of Nazca, on a small bay, is Puerto Inca, the seaport and fishing harbour for Cuzco in pre-colonial times. The road from here through the canyons to the sierra was a major Inca artery. That route may have fallen into disuse, but new roads are making it much easier to climb up from the coast with its ramshackle fishing villages and brief flashes of green irrigated valleys. One is the newly paved highway from Nazca to Abancay, which passes the Pampas Galeras vicuña reserve. Further south the stunning road from the port of Ilo to Lake Titicaca can be picked up in the oasis town of Moquegua.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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