Luxury on the Peruvian Coast: Julianna Barnaby stays at Hotel Paracas
Set in a unique position between the desert and the sea, Hotel Paracas is one of Peru’s leading luxury hotels and perfectly placed to explore the south of the country.
It was a warm afternoon when we arrived from Lima to the Hotel Paracas. Rather than hustle and bustle and sky-high skyscrapers, Paracas’ low-level buildings and seaside setting came as a welcome contrast.
Hotel Paracas has been luring Limeños (people from Lima) and well-heeled travellers down to the Peruvian coast since it opened in the 1940s. It was extensively rebranded and modernized after an earthquake caused significant damage to the original property in 2007, meaning that while the property has a long-standing reputation, the facilities and design have a contemporary focus.
“Welcome to the Hotel Paracas”. Stepping out of the car, we were immediately greeted by one of the front desk staff. Bags were taken away, a cold towel produced and a welcome refreshment in our hands before we had time to fully absorb the fact that we had arrived.
Paracas is a beguiling location. Though the town itself isn’t particularly special, its proximity to the bird-filled Ballestas Islands, ancient geoglyphs such as The Candelabra and the Paracas Nature Reserve means it’s often high on the list for those visiting Peru. Hotel Paracas stands clear as the best accommodation available in the area for the discerning traveller. The five-star hotel is a beacon of understated design and luxury within the region.
The hotel was originally built as an oasis in the desert and maintains that aura of luxury retreat to date – so much so that it’s the inevitable stopping point for celebrities visiting the area. It’s a favourite of Peruvian fashion photographer Mario Testino, who has brought visitors including Kate Moss to enjoy the unfussy opulence of the Hotel Paracas.
A Design Haven
The hotel’s redesign was undertaken by renowned architectural firm Arquitectonica. They set out to conceive a style that was both completely contemporary but also drew on and complemented the hotel’s natural surroundings. Accommodation is in villas, chalets and bungalows, all of which provide stylish lodgings for guests’ stays.
The rooms are spacious, with neutral decor enhanced with chic wall hangings and soft furnishings. I particularly loved the use of local materials to enhance the sense of place inherent throughout the property.
My first impression of the room was that of a perfectly-maintained and well-designed beach house. There was plenty of space to relax, whether on the inside couch or on the large private terrace overlooking the manicured gardens. Even the bathrooms had plenty of space and a calming design for leisurely baths after the sun had set.
Out and About
When it comes to activities, guests are spoilt for choice. At the very top of the list is a boat trip to the nearby Ballestas Islands where colonies of sea lions, penguins and varied birdlife can be spotted. Visitors are not allowed to disembark on the islands, but they remain a real highlight of any trip to Paracas, justifying comparisons to the Galapagos Islands in nearby Ecuador. Almost all boat tours go to the islands via a viewing point for the large-scale ancient geoglyph known simply as The Candelabra – another interesting sight within the area. Hotel Paracas has a private pier from which small group tours to the Ballestas Islands and The Candelabra depart twice a day.
Alternatively, if you’re looking to explore the desert, you can organise a tour into the vast Paracas Nature Reserve that lies on Hotel Paracas’ doorstep. The Nature Reserve is notable for its pristine beaches, calm waters and diversity of marine life. It spans an area of 1170 square kilometres – as such it’s impossible to navigate the reserve in the course of a day but tours head to the small fishing port of Laguinillas, a few beaches and ancient burial sites such as Cerro Colorado.
Paracas is well-located for tours of Pisco & Ica (famed for their production of pisco, the national Peruvian grape spirit) and Nazca, where visitors can fly over the huge site to see the full scale of the unexplained Nazca lines.
As well-located as Hotel Paracas is for exploring, it’s also got plenty of facilities to cater to those that want to just flop, drop and recharge by the hotel pool. Though both pools can be a bit boisterous at times, if you nab a spot in the early morning you are guaranteed at a least a few hours where it’s quieter and before it starts to liven up. The main pool is an impressive sight – perfectly symmetrical and framed with semi-private lounging cabanas for basking in the sun and recovering from spells in the pool.
The only reservation that we would have about the property is that it can be quite noisy at night. During our stay the family in the neighbouring rooms had a party on their terrace both nights until the early hours of the morning, which was less than ideal. While Hotel Paracas would position itself as a great place to getaway from it all, it’s a relatively large property and sometimes that’s quite apparent when making use of the leisure facilities.
Hotel Paracas has three restaurants, of which my pick was undoubtedly the pier-based Chalana Restaurant. The restaurant specialises in traditional Peruvian seafood recipes with a contemporary twist. Feasting on locally-sourced seafood whilst staring out at the water was one of the real highlights of our stay. You can watch as the chef prepares your dishes in the open kitchen or simply sip on one of their perfectly-made pisco sours and soak up the surroundings as you wait for your meal.
Other than Chalana, Ballestas Restaurant is the hotel’s main restaurant and serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner in a vast dining room. Breakfasts offer the usual buffet-style fare – complete with lots of fresh fruit from the region. There’s also an Italian trattoria where guests can indulge in freshly-made pizzas cooked on a wood-fired oven. Don’t forget to take a look at the vintage photos that grace the trattoria’s walls – they provide an interesting glimpse into the hotel’s long and illustrious history.
Leaving the Hotel Paracas, I could understand why it’s attracted luxury travellers for such a long time. The hotel offers guests a great balance between attentive service and excellent facilities in one of Peru’s most enchanting settings. It’s such a short journey from Lima, that its easily included in any itinerary to Peru, even if you’re only in the country for a relatively short time.
Hotel Paracas. Rooms start at £200 per night.
Address: Av. Paracas S/n, Paracas, Peru
Phone: +51 56 581333