The Ballestas Islands

Some have gone as far as to call them “The Poor Man’s Galapagos.”  However, that really isn’t a fair statement.  The Ballestas Islands sit just off the coast of Peru a handful of hours south of Lima, and are absolutely teeming with bird life.  And although they don’t have the same amazing wildlife variety that is showcased in the Galapagos, they will not disappoint visitors, not in the least.  As pelicans skim inches above the water, and a wide variety of sea birds hum overhead, you’ll likely feel more as if you’re in a Disney movie than just off of the coast of one of the world’s driest deserts.  The Ballestas are also howling with life as giant sea lions fight over territory on the beaches, and young pups struggle with the waves to shimmy up onto the rocks that jut out of the water sharply.  Humboldt Penguins waddle around the islands looking always as if they are lost.  And if lucky, bottle-nosed dolphins might find a playground alongside your boat dancing for picture.  All-in-all, although it probably doesn’t come even close to being on par with the Galapagos, for its value a Ballestas Islands tour is a must on an trip to this part of Peru.  Just let my pictures of the islands’ geology and wildlife do the convincing:

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

The Candles of Paracas… they have been there since, well, no one knows really for sure!

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

Amazing geology of the islands

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

Penguins waddling

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

Sea lions on the red rocks

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

That’s not the colour of the rock… that black spot is just birds… a higher density of birds, and bird poo, than you could ever imagine

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

Sea Lion stretching for sun

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru

The birds setting off to fish

coastal desert, paracas, Peru

The coastal desert off in the distance

ballestas islands, paracas, Peru, the arch

The “tunnel” of the Ballestas


Author: Brendan van Son

Author: I am a travel writer and photographer from Alberta, Canada. Over my years as a travel photographer, I have visited 6 of the 7 continents and more countries than I have any desire to count. If you want to improve your skills, be sure to check out my travel photography channel on Youtube . Also, check out my profile on . to learn a little bit more about me and my work.

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7 Comments

  1. I went to Isla Ballestas when I was in Peru and it was an amazing experience for me. We were lucky enough to run into some dolphins on the way back and what a thrill that was! Thank you for the wonderful photos and for bringing back some good memories for me!

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  2. I have never heard of these islands before–it’s great to learn something new! Awesome shots, especially of the tunnel. 🙂

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  3. The poor man’s Galapagos? I’m pretty sure that’s the last thing that came to my mind. I’ve never heard of them either but they look gorgeous!

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  4. Nice shots, I didn’t know Peru has a island like that. I love being in the nature and see the real animal in their natural habitat.

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  5. I’ve been there too! I stayed in Paracas last christmas. The town was ok, but I wondered what it all looked like before the earthquake. The food and sights were well worth the trip from Lima but I was sad I didn’t get to visit Pisco or the Nasca lines.

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  6. You were lucky to have such good wildlife! We did the same trip when in Peru and saw two sea lions and three penguins. Such a disappointment, we were glad it only cost us $15 but it wasn’t worth getting up at 6am to visit from Huacachina.

    Puerto Lopez in Ecuador is also known as the “poor man’s galapagos”, and in my opinion is far better than Paracas was.

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    • Shame Jo, I have been there about 7 times and every time was amazing. I’m wondering if things have changed in the past 3 years. Or maybe it was just the wrong time of year/day when you were there.

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