The Ica department (departamento is equivalent to a province in Perú) is known as the region of sand and sea, oases and valleys. It is a native land, par excellence, of zealous churchgoers and witches, of pisco, wine and popular devotions like the Lord of Luren or the Sanctuary of Yauca. It was in this land, in its sandy deserts, that important pre-Columbian civilizations emerged, leaving traces that have outlasted the passing time and winds.
Founded in 1563 by Don Luis Jerónimo de Cabrera, the city of Ica, capital of the department with the same name, possesses beautiful buildings, such as the Cathedral and large mansions.
The road to Ica offers a variety of attractions to the traveler. The first stop could be Cañete, famous for the delicious food prepared with “camarones” (river schrimps). Next stop is Chincha, a warm valley perfectly combining folklore and tradition. It is the center of a culture emerging from the former Negro slaves from the colonial cotton plantations. There you can visit Hacienda San José, another good option for lunch, as well as Bodega Tabernero, one of the good wine producers in Perú.
A few kilometers beyond, you reach the Paracas National Park, the only protected area in Peru containing a marine ecosystem within its environment. From the port of Paracas, boat trips can be made to the Ballestas Islands, where close up views of sea lions, Humboldt penguins, flamingos or parihuanas and sea birds may be seen.
To the south, near the city of Ica, the main place for quality wine and pisco in Perú, there is Lake Huacachina (a relaxing oasis with lodging facilities in the middle of a coastal desert) and, some kilometers further on, the Nazca Lines, a valuable archaeological monument bequeathed to us by the people of the ancient Nazca culture. It is an enormous network of lines and drawings of animals and plants, covering an area of about 350 km². Flying over the Nazca Lines is an unforgettable experience.
There are three important fiestas celebrated in Ica: the wine harvest fiesta (Vendimia), since Ica has numerous vineyards producing excellent wines and piscos, and the fiestas of the Lord of Luren and the Virgin of Carmen in Chincha. During these fiestas you can partake of all the dishes and sweets of Ica and, why not, take the opportunity to visit the town of Cachiche, renowned for its ancestral witches that can cure all kinds of ailments.
Hacienda San José. Its construction dates from the end of the 17th century. The ranch house maintains the friendly and traditional style of the old south coast haciendas. Its main attractions are the baroque altar in the chapel and the underground passages by which the slaves were brought with their eyes covered with bandages to prevent them from fleeing.
Lake Huacachina is a traditional resting place for people from Lima and Ica. The lake appears like an oasis in the middle of a desert, together with a splendid landscape that harmonizes the high sand dunes, palm trees and huarango trees. Some of the lake dwellers attribute curative properties to the waters of the lake. You get the amazing sensation to be somewhere in the North African desert. There are two comfortable hotels to have a night rest in this magic place