Islas Ballestas~

Islas Ballestas, an island group off the coast of Paracas, are often referred to as Peru’s Galapagos. They are a group of uninhabited islands that are part of the wildlife rich, Paracas National Reserve. This is a colony of Guanay Cormorants native to Peru and Chile.

You cannot visit the islands without passing the giant Candelabra carved into the rock face and carbon dated to 200 BCE.

The islands shelter an incredible variety of fauna. There are literally millions of birds and their feathers float and fill the air like lazy drifting snowflakes.


There are fur seals, Humboldt penguins, Inca terns, blue footed boobies, and so many more amazing wild creatures here. I will show you them in my next few posts.

But for now, let’s just look at these unusual islands.

They are volcanic, and riddled with arches and ancient sea caves. The layers in the caves show the process of geologic time.

You can go in the caves, if you dare, and if you do, look at what you will see!

Cheers to you from Peru’s incredible islands~

188 thoughts on “Islas Ballestas~

  1. Yike! Sorry! Somehow my comments got turned off. I restored them. It seems like my follow function is flaky too. Please let me know if I get unfollowed from you!

    • The Candelabra remains a mystery. I took so many photos of it, looking at it from all angles, trying to figure out what it could be or mean, and I remained stumped. Here’s what wiki says:
      “The Paracas Candelabra, also called the Candelabra of the Andes, is a well-known prehistoric geoglyph found on the northern face of the Paracas Peninsula at Pisco Bay in Peru. Pottery found nearby has been radio carbon dated to 200 BCE, the time of the Paracas culture. The design is cut two feet into the earth, with stones possibly from a later date placed around it. The figure is 595 feet (181 meters) tall, large enough to be seen 12 miles at sea.
      Although the exact age of the Candelabra geoglyph is unknown, archaeologists have found pottery around the site dating back to around 200 BCE. This pottery likely belonged to the Paracas people, although whether they were involved in the creation of the geoglyph is not known. The reason for the Candelabra’s creation is also unknown, although it is most likely a representation of the trident, a lightning rod of the god Viracocha, who was seen in mythology throughout South America. It has been suggested that the Candelabra was built as a sign to sailors, or even as a symbolic representation of a hallucinogenic plant called Jimsonweed.”

  2. Hi Cindy, Glad I checked back since I was disappointed I couldn’t comment. Your images are amazing! The sheer number of cormorants and the Candelabra are astounding. Terrific post.

  3. These islands are uncommonly beautiful and intriguing. Thank you for bringing them into my consciousness. I am looking forward to learning more!

    blessings, Linda

  4. Beautiful photos. The colors in the caves are amazing. I see the Guanay Cormorants are colored more like penguins and have a very narrow range along the west coast of South America and the Islas Ballestas from the large colony in your photos. We get Neotropic Cormorants up here, but I only seen one or two at a time. The Neotropic Cormorants are blackish brown and their range is all of South and Central America, with an island up here in the Middle Rio Grande Valley.

    • Yes, cormorants are remarkable birds. The Guanays do look remarkably like penguins are hard to distinguish from a distance. I have seen and photographed them at the farthest reaches of South America. I have also seen the neotropics in South and Central America, handsome birds, but had no idea they lived in the Rio Grande Valley. How cool is that! Thank you for educating me.

  5. Before arriving to Paracas, there is the city of Pisco. There I lived until I went to Lima to study at the University near Callao, in front I had Palomino Island. As a school assignment, we were going to clean the Candelabro. We also helped Maria Reiche, raising funds to build an elevated vantage point to appreciate the Nazca figures before they became more famous, 1964. As a curious fact, at that time we unearthed ceramic objects from the Paracas Culture without knowing the historical value they had . I had one at home but we gave it to the Museum of Paracas that I do not know if you went through there. As you can appreciate, you have brought part of school life in your photos. Fate plays us those passes in life. First, Palomino Island / University, and now Paracas / College. I do not lie to you that a tear ran through my eyes because of that nostalgia of times that went by very quickly. A hug and thanks for making me enjoy my memories.

    • Your memories bring tears to me. I love Pisco. I have been to this region twice before, and I keep coming back. There is something magical that draws one back and never really lets you leave entirely. The wild creatures, the sea, the ancient Paracas culture, the clues they left behind, the incredibly stunning beauty, if it had such a strong effect on me, and it did, and does, I can only imagine what it must feel like for you, to be born in this stunning place, cleaning the Candelabra as a school assignment, holding on to the Paracas ceramic you brought home, and protected, without knowing it’s actual value, somehow, you did know though. It is all magical isn’t it, and it is in your blood and memory. Lucky you to have such beautiful memories, and lucky me to to visit here, and to know you. Gracias por compartir sus recuerdos conmigo. <3 <3

  6. So glad it wasn’t me lol. WP did an update and wiped out tons of people’s follows. I’m still trying to find them all. I’m guessing your comment issue is just another part of it.

    These caves are amazing. And the wildlife!! I’m really living this trip. 😉

    • Who knows? Dealing with so many many millions of people must be a burden, right? Facebook? Except of course, for the profitability of it. These are just rhetorical questions of course. We are in good hands. I am not too worried I just said this, unless there is an algorithm to obliterate me, and such comments completely.
      Laughing….sort of.

  7. It’s a beautiful untouched island!! And that 200BCE candelabra!! It looks so mysterious and exciting at the same time…do you know what it means? 🤔

    • Essentially no one really knows what it means. It is a mystery wrapped in an enigma. I looked at it from every angle, I had ideas, but no conclusions. Which maybe is exactly what this ancient art is meant to depict?

      • Oh ok…so modern art apparently didnt have such ‘modern origins’….it could be found in these 200BCE creations!! 😀
        Jokes apart…looks very mysterious…wonder what would be in the mind at that time!!

    • Some of the beaches in this part of the world are covered entirely by gorgeous, polished rocks of many hues, that look like gems you would buy in a rock and mineral store.

    • I go to these places to provide meaning to my life. The staggering beauty of our natural world, puts us appropriately, in our place, and seeing this makes me happy.
      Thank you Rosaliene.

  8. The colors and geologic formations fascinate me, Cindy. Thank you for sharing this gorgeous place with us — looking forward to more!!

  9. Pingback: Islas Ballestas~ — | Rethinking Life

  10. A treasure cove of colour. Its like another world, yet it is ours. You visit such interesting places, and then share it with others. 💕

  11. Those geologic strata really are quite remarkable. The darker layer looks like basalt. Any idea what the others are?

    I suspect there are bird pictures coming…

    • I do not know what the rock layers are and I would like to know. I do they are volcanic and you can see the strata in the exterior rocks, but the exterior formations are muted by the effects of erosion and sun exposure, these cave interiors are polished by the sea and kept in the dark. We need a geologist to way in here. You are right, the BIRDS are coming!!! Take cover!

    • Basically The Candelabra remains ‘a mystery wrapped in an enigma.’ It is a geoglyph, thought to have been made by the by the Paracas people who lived in this region from 800-100 BCE, because pottery from around The Candelabra carbon dated to around the same time the Paracas Culture was present in this area ie., 200 BCE, although it is possible the geoglyph is much older. The figure is cut into the earth about two feet deep, and the earth petrified over time saving the geoglyph. It is huge, 181 meters tall and can be seen up to twelve miles out to sea. It oddly geometric, basically a series of triangles and straight lines, until the top section, where the lines curve in patterned waves. Some surmise it is a depiction of Jimson Weed which was a hallucinogen plant used at the time for religious purposes, others guess it might be a depiction of the lightning rod of the god Viracocha, still others think it was a navigational symbol. I do have more photos which I can post as people do seem interested.

  12. I have seen some colorful rocks directly and many more by admiring photos of places like Sedona or the Grand Canyon.  The sea caves here surpass anything I have seen or could have imagined before seeing this post.

  13. You do have amazing excursions to fantastic places ! Hi ya Cindy 😀 I thought I’d do some surfing here today, who knew I’d arrive in Peru ? The first photo is really mind blowing ! Sooooo many birds. We enjoyed Cormorants at the lake I used to live at. They followed around the Pelicans because they found the good fishing I suppose. Did you get a good whiff of bird droppings when you floated by? Well worth it to see unspoilt nature. I do love the idea of an uninhabited island reserved for nature…wish we were that smart up here. xK

    • They actually harvest the guano from on these islands and sell it for fertilizer at a hefty profit as there is so much of it. (My husband has been waiting for me to talk about this, which I have been avoiding.) I love it that I get to talk about it with you!!! 😉 I think guano harvesting would be a truly difficult job, although I know someone who has made a fortune picking up and selling agricultural chicken poo in the USA. One creatures poo, is another creature’s profit, and all gets recycled. Aren’t you glad you mentioned the birdie doo!!!! <3 😉

  14. They are incredible indeed, Cindy! The colours inside the cave, materials formed over a long long time, are just fascinating. And that candelabra, wow! Makes me think maybe some aliens got lost or stranded so they made a huge ‘HELP’ sign so the mothership can spot them, haha. Cheers to you my friend.

  15. Oooh, your seas were calmer and more low tide that the morning we did the boat ride out the island. We did not see through those bridges nor see the range of colors you saw. Nice photos. (we did see thousands of birds though). – Oscar

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