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While most travelers breeze through Paracas just long enough to get pooped on by the birds at Islas Ballestas, we stuck around for four days, leaving plenty of time to explore the other activities the area offers. And by “other activities the area offers,” I basically mean kitesurfing and touring the Paracas National Reserve. I told you it’s a quiet town!

While I wasn’t ready to invest in kitesurfing lessons just yet (it is on my bucket list!), the Scandis had a grand time testing those waters. What I did enthusiastically sign up for was exploring the vast desert wilderness that is the Paracas National Reserve. There are a few options for exploring the area. (1) You can rent bicycles for $15 each, though you’ll spend the entire day pedaling in the shade-less sun. (2) You can hire a taxi driver to take your group on a three-hour tour for about $20. (3) You can splash out for a three-hour ATV tour for $40 each.

I think you could guess which one we’d go for.

We waited until my friend , who I had met in Arequipa and who was now working at our hostel in Paracas, had a day off. Then our group of five — Leah and I and the three Scandis — revved off into the desert. Our guide was super laid-back but would turn out to be one of the best I had in Peru.

Within moments of taking off I realized this would be nothing like my ATV tour in Hawaii, where we were strictly limited to a speed of no more than twelve miles per hour. Here in Peru, the boys sped off as fast as their ATVs could carry them, with the guide laughing and leading the pack. Leah and I hung towards the back, though we each took turns overtaking the rest of the group eventually.

We stopped at various points of interest along the way, pausing to admire faint fossils or sweeping beach vistas. The most famous of all the sea views is La Catedral — or at least it was. This once-regal sea arch, formed over thousands of years, is featured proudly on postercards and posters all across Peru. Too bad it was destroyed in the that devastated the region.

While I admit I’m more of a lush, tropical scenery kind of girl, there was something hauntingly beautiful about driving through this harsh and barren desert. Oh, and one tip to anyone out there hoping to replicate this adventure: don’t make the mistake of thinking harsh sun equals unbearable heat. The wind is whipping here, and along with the breeze created by driving we were absolutely freezing. Bring a long sleeve top!

Our tour ended with driving along some of the area’s beautiful and multi-colored beaches, including Peru’s only stretch of red sand. The setting sun was beautiful and inspired — what else? — a series of serious jump shots.

While this was a relatively pricey tour by backpacker standards in Peru, it was worth every sole, just as Paracas was worth the extra days we spent there. Though it was yet another adventure activity to tick off in a country that has seemingly endless amounts of them, ATV riding through the Paracas National Reserve was a fantastically unique experience.

As usual, Anders made a badass video of our time on the South Coast, including footage from Huacachina, The Ballestas Islands, and the Paracas National Reserve. I love it!

Have you been ATV riding? Where?

  • Kathryn
    December 30 2013

    Anders, fabulous video, LOVE the music and all the images. Great job!

    • Meihoukai
      December 30 2013

      I could have guessed you would like that song 🙂

      • Daniel
        July 13 2017

        Meihoukai your trip looks like lots of fun. I would like to take my teenage son, could you please let me know how can I get in touch with the ATV rental. regards Dan

        • Meihoukai
          July 17 2017

          Hey Daniel! We just booked in person by wandering into one of the travel agencies in town, so unfortunately I don’t have any further information beyond what’s included in this post. My apologies! Good luck!

  • Steve
    December 30 2013

    Awesome video Anders. You captured the fun you were obviously having.

  • Stef
    December 30 2013

    This looks like so much fun! And the video is awesome as always! Have a happy new year!

    • Meihoukai
      December 30 2013

      Thanks Stef — you as well! I am lucky to have such a great videographer on the team now!

  • Rachel of Hippie in Heels
    January 1 2014

    looks like fun! i grew up riding four-wheelers and haven’t done it since i moved away from home. Maybe i can some some in india! i actually thought about getting one as a car here (i’m afraid to drive a bike)

    • Meihoukai
      January 2 2014

      I had a friend on Koh Tao who had a 4 wheeler… she too was afraid to drive a bike 🙂 I always knew where she was on the island when I saw it parked somewhere!

  • Elora
    January 1 2014

    Wow! You guys had such fun! I would LOVE those ATVs. Honestly. And the sandboarding–and the kiteskiing…okay, another place on the list. Awesome pics!!

    • Meihoukai
      January 2 2014

      Wait until you see the review of the hostel we stayed at! It made Paracas even more worthwhile 🙂

  • Hogga
    January 2 2014

    happy new year!

  • TammyOnTheMove
    January 3 2014

    This looks awesome! I don’t think I gonna make it there though, unfortunately. Unless I come back to Peru after Bolivia and Chile and settle there, which is also a possibility.

    • Meihoukai
      January 4 2014

      It’s always good to leave something to come back for 🙂

  • Kiara Gallop
    June 15 2014

    I was just reading your article again as I’m currently in Paracas, and I was wondering who you booked your ATV tour with? Many thanks 🙂

    • Meihoukai
      June 16 2014

      Hey Kiara, we booked it through the Kokopelli hostel. Hope that helps!

  • Courtney
    February 8 2016

    Hi Meihoukai,
    Did you book this before you went, or did you just book it when you got to Paracas?

    • Meihoukai
      February 9 2016

      Just booked it upon arrival, Courtney. No need to do so ahead!