Ica and around

Ica is Peru's main wine centre. The city is on the Río Ica, which is almost permanently dry and rubbish-strewn but the waters of the Choclacocha and Orococha lakes at 4570 m are tunnelled for 9 km from the Andes into the Ica valley and irrigate 30,000 ha of land. As well as wine, the city is famous for its tejas, a local sweet of manjarblanco. It suffered less damage than Pisco in the 2007 earthquake, but one side of the Plaza de Armas collapsed. Most travellers spend little time in Ica itself, preferring to stay at the oasis at Huacachina. Here you will find a lake surrounded by towering sand dunes, which are great for racing up and down on dune buggies and learning the skills of sandboarding. Increasingly popular are trips into the desert to experience the mysteries of this barren landscape.

Getting there and around

Buses from Lima travel along the Av Municipalidad nearly into the centre of town. Most hotels, though, are on the far side of the Plaza de Armas. Most bus offices are on Lambayeque blocks 1 and 2 and Salaverry block 3. Look after your bags when transferring between buses to or from Nazca, Pisco or Lima; pickpockets and bagsnatchers operate here. Ica is much more spread out than Pisco. You will need a taxi to get around especially if you intend to visit the bodegas.

Tourist information

Regional information is available from
Dircetur
. Some tourist information is available at travel agencies. Also try
Touring y Automóvil Club del Perú
, ica@touringperu.com.pe.

Sights

Southwest of the centre is the
Museo Regional
. It houses mummies, ceramics, textiles and trepanned skulls from the Paracas, Nazca and Inca cultures. There's a well-displayed collection of Inca counting strings (
quipus
) and clothes made of feathers. It also has informative displays with maps of all sites in the department. Behind the building is a scale model of the Nazca Lines with an observation tower. The kiosk outside sells copies of motifs from ceramics and textiles.

Bodegas around Ica

There are several wine bodegas you can visit.
Bodega El Carmen
is on the right-hand side when arriving from Lima. This
pisco
distillery has an ancient grape press made from a huge tree trunk and is worth a visit.
Bodega La Caravedo
, www.lacaravedo.com
, with organic production and sophisticated presentation. Ten kilometres outside Ica, in the district of Subtanjalla, is
Bodega El Catador
. It
has a shop selling home-made wines and
pisco
, plus traditional handicrafts associated with winemaking. There is also a restaurant-bar serving lunch, with dancing and music in the evening. The best time to visit is during harvest - late February to early April - when wine and
pisco
tasting is usually possible. Try Cachina, a very young white wine 'with a strong yeasty taste', which is drunk about two weeks after the grape harvest.

In
Ocucaje
, 30 km south of Ica, Señor Luis Chipana's
bodega
, makes a very good, strong Moscatel, sold in unlabelled bottles. He is always short of bottles so it's best to take your own. A visit is recommended, but you'll need good Spanish. Señor Chipana lives on the main plaza beside his
bodega
; ask for him in the bar on the plaza. The town is a popular excursion from Ica for tours of the
Ocucaje winery
, www.ocucaje.com
, which makes wines and
pisco
. The winery's restaurant has a limited menu but serves good food.

Huacachina

This attractive oasis and summer resort is 5 km from Ica, set around a palm-fringed lake and amid impressive sand dunes. Its green sulphur waters are said to possess curative properties. Increasingly, the resort has become a hang-out for people seeking a change from the archaeology and chill of the Andes. Plenty of cheap hostels and bars have opened, playing pop and grunge as opposed to pan-pipe music. Paddleboats can be rented. Sandboarding on the dunes has become a major pastime, attracting fans from Europe and elsewhere. For the inexperienced, note that sandboarding can be dangerous. Dune buggies also do white-knuckle, rollercoaster tours.

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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