Ballestas Islands in Perú

The Ballestas Islands in Perú are small rock formations located a short distance from the Peruvian coast. They are famous for harboring important marine fauna such as Humboldt penguins and sea lions. They are also a refuge for thousands of birds such as the pelican, the tendril, the cormorant, etc.

Nicknamed “The Mini Galapagos”, the islands are a must-see for all wildlife lovers as they are home to thousands of birds and mammals including penguins, sea lions, Inca larosterns, pelicans, and dolphins.

The Ballestas Islands in Perú are protected reserves, which means that it is not possible to swim with the animals or walk on the islands themselves, but you will be very close to them by boat. Visit this destination in the 8 Days Trip in Perú.


The Ballestas Islands are located 21 km west of Pisco and 81 km northwest of Ica.

  • District: Paracas
  • Province: Pisco
  • Department: Ica

Did you know?

  • The islands are home to the endangered Humboldt penguin.
  • The sea lion breeding season is between January and March. If you are lucky enough to be traveling during this time of year, you will see beaches filled with sea lion cubs and huge rival males defending their mating grounds.
  • When you go out to the islands, you will see «El Candelabro», a huge geoglyph in the shape of a candelabrum (or cactus) found on the north face of the Paracas peninsula. For hundreds of years, sailors used this as a coastal landmark.
  • If you take the Escape From Lima bus at 6:00 am from Lima, you have time to do the 10:00 am tour at the Ballestas Islands and continue to Huacachina the same day.
  • Humpback whales tend to be found in these waters between August and October, as they move north for the mating season.


Average temperatures range from 15.5 ° C (60 ° F) – 22 ° C (72 ° F). There is no rainy season. The park can be visited all year round.

How to get to the Ballestas Islands in Perú?

The Ballestas Islands are located a few meters from the coast of this small coastal city. The best way to get there is by taking a boat tour from the coast to the islands.

How to get there by public transport:

The closest city is Paracas.

The closest major city is Pisco.

How to get to Paracas by bus:

  • From Lima: Between 3h30 and 4h30 hours. To see bus companies, click here.
  • From Ica: Between 1h30 and 2 hours. To see bus companies, click here.
  • From Nasca: Between 4 and 5 hours. To see bus companies, click here.
  • From Arequipa: Between 12 and 14 hours. To see bus companies, click here.

How to get to Pisco by bus:

  • From Lima: Between 3h30 and 4h30 hours.
  • From Ica: Between 4h30 and 5 hours.
  • From Nasca: Between 4h30 and 5 hours.
  • In Pisco there are taxis that go to Paracas in +/- 20 min.

Biological Diversity

The greatest biodiversity is found in the coastal marine zone. The marine invertebrate species (molluscs, polychaetes, crustaceans, echinoderms, etc.) and algae are representative and numerous, many of which stand out for their value and commercial importance. These are pressured not only by extractive activities, but are also under the influence of large-scale oceanographic events such as ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), or polluting events and the low availability of oxygen, among other characteristics of the Coastal marine environments in the Pisco-Paracas area. To date, 1,543 species have been recorded. Of these records, 317 correspond to algae, 54 to land plants, 109 to annelids, 194 to mollusks, 209 to marine arthropods, 129 to terrestrial arthropods, 101 to other types of invertebrates, 168 to fish, 10 to reptiles, 216 to birds. and 36 to mammals.

Both the geographic space made up of the Paracas bay and peninsula and San Gallán Island, as well as the entire Independencia Bay, are important centers of biodiversity. In Independencia Bay, mollusks and crustaceans predominate, followed by echinoderms, coelenterates and polychaetes. With regard to the macrobenthic flora, the rhodophyta predominate followed by the chlorophyta and phaeophyta. The Pampa area is the area with the greatest diversity of macrobenthic fauna, with 70 taxa, while El Chucho and Canastones showed the least diversity with 20 and 23 taxa, respectively. Similar values ??were observed in the other areas, fluctuating between 28 and 47 taxa, with a similar pattern regarding the diversity of the macrobenthic flora.


The Ballestas Islands in Perú are home to numerous species of guano birds (guanay, pelican, Peruvian booby, blue-footed booby and masked booby) and the tendril. Large marine vertebrates such as sea lions such as: the fur seal (Arcthocephalus australis) and the “chusco wolf” Otaria byronia (O. flavescens), penguins and dolphins are also present on the islands.

The Humboldt Penguin

When we think of penguins we quickly associate them with the cold of Antarctica.

The Humboldt penguin is the only penguin species in Peru.

It lives on the desert coasts of Peru and Chile. He spends most of his life at sea, in the Peruvian Humboldt Current.

Another name given to these Humboldt penguins is Child Bird. These penguins eat anchovy and silverside and live up to 20 years.

They have 2 chicks a year and incubate the egg for 40 days. Their nests are made in the ground by digging, or they are deposited in the guano.

Penguins are birds that cannot fly, but they have adapted very well to aquatic life. They are excellent swimmers and divers. They have 2 layers of feathers on their bodies that are impervious to water and wind. Once a year they change their plumage.

Humboldt penguins can adapt the shape of their eye cornea to see well below and above the water’s surface. They have a coloration to confuse fish, a special beak to catch fish. Unlike flying birds, their bones are dense to aid in diving.

These penguins are in danger of extinction due to natural threats such as the El Niño phenomenon and also due to the reduction of their nesting, capture and consumption areas, fishing with dynamite and use as pets.

Other birds

Thousands of seabirds fly between the Ballestas Islands in Perú and their nests can be seen on the rocks, among them we have the pelican, condor, boobies, flamingos, etc.

Island Mammals

The sea lions probably come up to the boat and many penguins are seen on the hills and also in the water.

The sea lions stationed on the rocky beaches that hit the surf fight fiercely to maintain the hegemony of their harem, usually composed of 12 females.


Dolphins frequently visit the waters around the Ballestas Islands in Perú

Landscape ecology

The biomes present in the Pisco-Paracas area are closely related to their physical context. In the continental portion we find:

The Pisco and Ica valleys, where the most important economic activity is agriculture

The coastal desert, supported in part by the peneplain, but mainly in the coastal range.

Near the beach shore you can find formations of xerophytic vegetation, wooded patches of «sofaique» (Geofroea decorticans). Taking advantage of the altitude generated by the Cordillera de la Costa, coastal ”, rich in endemisms.

In the aquatic environment we find the coastal biome, associated with the shallowest portion of the platform, characterized by high productivity and biological diversity, both at a genetic and specific level, as well as an ecosystem and process level.

Natural environments of great scenic beauty also stand out; This includes the chain of islands that goes from the northern limit in the Paracas bay to Punta Azul, in the south.

Finally, there is the oceanic biome associated with the greater depths of the platform and the slope. The studies of this area are limited to the information taken during the oceanographic and acoustic evaluation cruises of pelagic resources that the Peruvian Sea Institute (IMARPE) periodically carries out.

Public use area

For public use areas, there must be a management plan which must include tourism programs; of environmental interpretation; and environmental education. In order to systematize and guide the educational service for visitors, so that they understand, enjoy and appreciate the cultural, natural and landscape values; also provide information on the benefits of conserving natural resources.

If you travel to Perú, we also recommend you to visit another impressive destinations in the city of Cusco like the tour to rainbow mountain peru or the humantay lake tour from cusco, which only takes one day. But if you are gonna to stay more days in Cusco, other archaeological places you can know will be the choquequirao trek peru, the salkantay trek to machu picchu, and the classic inca trail 4 days 3 nights.

TripAdvisor Reviews

Based on 151 reviews
Fernanda L
Fernanda L
Mariela es muy especial! Fue todo perfecto! Mariela es increíble y hizo todo para que nuestro viaje fuera inolvidable. La dedicación de Mariela por su trabajo y por su familia también son muy bonitas. Eso hace todo aún más especial.
Cusco Visitei Cusco em Junho/2023 e reservei todos os passeios com a Qorianka. Equipe muito atenciosa, todos os passeios foram ótimos e bem organizados.
Da F
Da F
Perfeito!!!!! Quando fui planejar a viagem para Cusco pesquisei muito os locais que queria conhecer e as empresas que faziam os passeios, encontrei a Qorianka Tours entrei em contato e fui super bem atendida pela Mariele que esclareceu todas as minhas dúvidas. Quando estamos planejamento uma viagem sempre surgi o medo de não ser o que esperávamos, mas falo com vocês que foi melhor do que eu esperava, me surpreendeu o comprometimento, a atenção de toda a equipe que esteve comigo e com meu marido no período da viagem. Vou detalhar um pouco como foi, quando chegamos no aeroporto já tinha uma pessoa esperando para levar até o hotel, nos dias de buscar para os passeios foram todos extremamente pontuais, os guias sempre alegres e com toda atenção explicavam as histórias dos locais, os locais de café da manhã e almoço muito bom e agradáveis e no fim da viagem também nos buscaram no hotel e levaram até o aeroporto. Ficamos 9 dias em Cusco, foi uma viagem maravilhosa, um sonho realizado. Agradeço toda a equipe da Qorianka Tours que conseguiram transformar minha viagem em algo mais surpreendente do que eu espera. Se vc estiver planejando super indico a Qorianka Tours, não tem nenhum ponto negativo para reclamar. Podem confiar.
Solange Puga
Solange Puga
AGÊNCIA CONFIÁVEL!! A agencia é confiável, fiz a reserva pelo Brasil,só paguei uma pequena reserva,em um banco no Brasil,fiz o resto do pagamento diretamente com a Mariella em Cusco. Eles são honestos,mas meio informais. . No city tour,eles atrasaram, logo após 20'' de atraso eu liguei,esqueceram de nós,mas logo Mariella resolveu o problema e mandou um carro para nos levar até o grupo. Adoramos os guias de cada passeio,Aidê,Roni,Ivan e Mari,são eficientes,educados e divertidos . As Vans eram confortáveis. O hotel do pacote em Aguas Calientes,,era bom e bem localizado,foram nos buscar na estação.
Silvia P
Silvia P
7 lagunas con Diego Go!! La mejor experiencia!!! desde inicio hasta al final... cuentan con servicio de desayuno, almuerzo típico delicioso? Además de conocer y hacer amistades de otros países? y lo más importante el guía quién nos orienta e explica durante todo el trayecto.... totalmente agradecida y muy feliz Guía: Diego Suna Quispe
Rocio O
Rocio O
TOUR 7 LAGUNAS CON DIEGO GO! La mejor experiencia de la visita a las 7 lagunas además de contemplar su belleza natural fue que el guía Diego nos dejó tomarnos el tiempo necesario para captar las mejores fotografías y hacer videos, ya que estas imágenes quedarán guardadas por siempre para el recuerdo. También agradecer por la alimentación que estaba deliciosa con ingredientes propias de la zona. Un consejo para las personas que deseen aventurarse en este tour (o alguno otro, ya que el guía es experto en muchos tours) no se arrepentirán en tomarlo como guía a DIEGO GO! ( como lo bautizamos ???) su nombre real es DIEGO SUNA QUISPE
Rafa Rodriguez
Rafa Rodriguez
Todo el viaje valió la pena El viaje fue súper cansador pero llegar a la montaña de colores compensó todo el cansancio! Además con el guía Ronald aka Picasso hizo esta experiencia mucho más gratificante y hermosa!
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