The Oasis of the desert
A long desert and agriculture related tradition encompasses the City of Ica, capital of the department of the same name. From Colonial times, Ica became an important wine producing center. Tradition tells that few years after the Spanish conquest, vines brought from the Canary Islands were planted in this sunny land, and everyone was surprised at how easily the plant adapted to its environment. This not only made it possible to produce excellent wines, but it was also the beginning of the Spaniards themselves and which continues to conquer all those who try it. However, the creativity of the people from Ica also gave origin to a new product: the cachina, a liquor prepared from fermented grape must, a very popular drink at local festivities.
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In addition to enticing us with its drinks, Ica invites us to taste the variety of dishes made from pallares, or Lima beans, as well as delicious desserts like frejol colado (strained black beans mixed with milk, sugar and sesame seeds) and tejas, which consist of pecan, lenon or figs filled with manjarblanco (liquid fudge) and covered with a coat or two of sugar glazing.
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History of Ica
The strong winds which so easily raise clouds of sand, locally known as Paracas singular dunes, covering the famous Pampas of Ica with sand, jealously guarding the mysteries of gold regional cultures. In spite of the shortage of water in the area, the inhabitants of Ica have achieved an admirable level of agricultural development, thanks to the design of complex irrigation canals, which took advantage of underground water filtering.
Signs of the first inhabitants of the region date back to at least 5,000 years ago, as evidenced by the remains found in the Paracas Península. Ica has been the deveploment center for important cultures, like the Paracas (600 B.C. – 400 A.C.) and the Nazca (200 B.C. – 800 A.C.). Famous for their advanced knowledge of medicine, the Paracas were successful in brain surgery trepanation and deformation. They also mastered the manufacturing of beautiful knits, interweaving highly colorful wool and cotton yarn, the embroidering and designs of which are still widely admired. Much later, the Nazcas left aqueducts in the pampas, some of which are still being used to irrigate the fields and impressive archaeological evidence which is still to be deciphered, such as the case of the Nazca Lines.
The region became part of the Tahuantisuyo during the government of Inca Pachacútec, who ordered the building of an important administrative and religious center, known as Tacaraca, which is said to have been the residence of the local governor Aranvilca.
With the Spanish conquest, the area was initially divided into two rich encomiendas (estates granted to Spanish colonist by royal decree): Hanan Ica. Later, in 1563, the Viceroy Count of Nieva, ordered Luis Jerónimo de Cabrera to found the Villa de Valverde, which since June 1640 came to be known as Ica. The village which preceded the present city was initially situaded in a place which had to be abandoned as a result of the terrible destruction produced by an earthquake, causing its relocation to its present site.
Ica has always been a city recognized for its agricultural importance, as well as for being a key point in Southern Peru’s trade circuit. In the 19 th entury, the Chincha Islands became a strategic place for the exploitation of guano as fertilizer, a key resource in the national economy of those days. Subsequently, thanks to the cotton crops, the economy of Ica recovered its dynamism.
Currently, Ica maintains its farming tradition with vast areas of grapevines, cotton, lima beans, pecans and of many types, contrasting with beauty of the desert.
406 meters above sea level (1,332 feet)
Population in Ica
Distances from Ica
325 Km (202 miles) from Lima
75 Km (46.6 miles) from Paracas
135 Km (84 miles) from Nazca
701 Km (435.7 miles) from Arequipa
Weather in Ica
Ica is well known for its excellent climate, where the sun shines the whole year round. December to March the temperature rises noticeably during the day, with an average of 30º C at mid-day, cooling off slightly during the evening. In the month of July and August, temperature drops, especially at night, when it reaches a minimum of 8º C. Due to the desert type climate, rainfall is scarce and the sun is strong. For this reason, it is advisable to us some sort of sunscreen protection and hats.
Acces to Ica
With an altitude of 406 masl, Ica can be easily reached by road directly from Lima along the South Pan-american Highway, the trip takes 4 hr (the distance is 303 km). To get there by air one uses charter plane services operating from Lima. The trip lasts 1.5hr.
Despite its nearness, its cuisine is very different from the one in Lima. The typical dishes include:
Green Lima beans (type of long bean).
Morusa (mashed lima beans with roast beef)
Picante de pallares (spicy casserole based on lima beans, milk, eggs and soft unripened cheese).
Carapulcra (sun-dried potato casserole style with pork and chicken, panca and mirasol chili, garlic and other species).
Tejas (traditional dessert made of dried up lemon and raisings stuffed with “manjarblanco” (milk jam) and nuts and covered with caramel and a sugar dressing).
Cachina (spirit made from fermented grape must).
Pisco (brandy originated in Peru distilled from the fermented juice
Chapanas (sweets made of cassave meal and brown sugar-loaf).
Attractions in Ica
Attractions in the City
As in many cities in Perú, Ica’s Main Square continues to be an essential meeting place for residents and tourists alike. From the Main Square one can see the Prefect´c Office, the Municipality, the Cathedral and Casa Bolivar, as well as enjoy part of the community´s daily life. This is a good starting point to cruise through the city.
Built in the 18 th century and remodeled in 1814, this church belonged to the monumental complex of the Society of Jesus. The sober neo-Classic façade is perfectly complemented with its interior, predominantly Baroque. Worth noting are the exquisite wood carvings of the pulpit and the altars, as well as the paintings of the evangelists in the arches.
CHURCH OF SAN FRANCISCO
The Church of San Francisco is an impressive sight in the City of Ica, not because of its age, as it was built in the 20 th century, but because of its size. Acces to the main building is through a portal, while two towers ending in double-arched belfries rise at the side entrances. Inside, there are tainted windows portraying scenes of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, wich are predominant in the church. The most important work of art on display is a painting of Inmaculate Mary dating back to the 18 th century. In this modern temple, the tradicional side altars have been replaced by shelves bearing several sacred images.
CASONA OF THE MARQUIS DE TORRE HERMOSA
One of the few simples of Colonial architecture in Ica is the grand old house belonging to the Marquis and Marchioness of Torre Hermosa. This house is also known as Casa Bolivar, as the Libertador stayed there when he visited the city. The house has an exquisite Rococo style portal made of carved-stone.
CASA DEL VALLE
Pleasant Republican house unique due to the graceful carved-wood entrance and its two exterior windows with roofs and bars.
Also known as the House of the Cornucopias, this Rococo style Colonial mansion is known for its works in gypsum, its hollow columns and impressive façade. In the inside there is a very appealing center garden and a gallery.
ADOLFO BERMUDEZ JENKINS REGIONAL MUSEUM
This Museum has very interesting pieces of the Paracas, Nazca, Ica, Chincha and Inca Cultures. One can appreciate fossil remains, petroglyphs, beautiful Paracas cloths, exquisite pieces of Nazca ceramics and Inca quipus, an ancient Peruvian device used for recording facts and events. In the Antropology Room there are pieces which include samples of brain surgery, trepanation and deformation, trophy heads and pre-Colombian mummies. The Museum also has an interesting collection of paintings, adornments and Colonial fumiture, as well as some objects from the Republican era.
Surrounded by dunes, palm trees and huarangos, small tropical
American trees (Caesalpina coriaria), the Lagoon of Huacachina appears as a sort of illusion in the desert, only 5 km west from the City of Ica. In olden times, the lagoon became famous among the residents due to the medicinal properties of its filtered waters. Today it is a peaceful resort which is ideal to take a rest and enjoy the landscape.
It is possible to take boat rides in the lagoon. Those seeking some sort of adventure can practice sand boarding on the dunes. The equipment necessary for this sport can be rented from some of the local stores.
TOWN OF CACHICHE
Only 4 km southwest of Ica, or 8 min away, there is a town which has been famous since the 19 th century because of its whitches, who used to prepare amulets and cured all types of diseases. Today, it is said that certain persons still continue these old habits in hiding. In the forest one can even find a monument in honor of the good deeds of the witches of Cachiche.
FRIARS OF PARCONA FOREST
This is a stone forest located 5 km east of the city. It challenges the imagination of visitors, allowing them to visualize a turtle, the head of monkey, a toad or a fish, which are figures carved into the stones by the wind the passing of the centuries.
ACHIRANA DEL INCA CANAL
Only 15 min away by car, 18 km northeast of Ica, there is an old Inca irrigation canal. Legend tells that in the times of Inca. Pachacutec, Túpac Yupanqui, his successor, personally directed the conquest of these valleys, and that he felt deeply in love with Chumbillalla, the daughter of the local governor. The love they had for each other prevented an armed battle. The young girl then told the messenger about the plight of her people caused by the lack of water in the area. Upon learning this, the Inca immediately sent 40,000 men to built great canal, reportedly 30 km long, which irrigated approximately 11.000 ha of cultivated fields. That canal is presently known as Achirana del Inca.
A TOUR THROUGH THE WINE CELLARS OF ICA
It is not a coincidence that Ica is considered the capital of the Peruvian pisco and wine. A tour around its different areas entices one to taste the delicious pisco and the good wines from Ica. The tours include visits to the most famous wine cellars as well as to picturesque small tradicional cellars (or bodegas) which open their doors to the visitors and invite them to taste the different varieties of wines and piscos, such as the quebranta (pure pisco made of Quebranta grapes), lemon pisco, Torontel pisco (made from a variety of sweet white grape known as Toronte) acholado (blended pisco) mosto verde (green unfermented pisco) and añejo (aged pisco).
PALPA AND SURROUNDING AREAS
Geoglifos de Palpa
The City of Palpa is located 92 km from Ica, opposite Km 395 of the South Panamerican Highway. There are a large number of geographical carvings of various shapes, which can be seen by climbing the slopes of the nearby hills. Worth nothing is the so-called Tejido de Sacramento.
Continuing 11 km to the southeast, are the petroglyps of Chichictara, where one can evidence shapes of snakes ,felines and beings with anthropomorphic features. Acces to Chichictara is not easy, as climb up the slope is demanding but worth it, however, to appreciate the area’s landscape.
FOTO Lineas de Nazca
Nazca is located 142 km from the City of Ica. It is a city which has preserved the secrets of its ancestors great masters of ceramics and the authors of the huge and impressive system of lines and drawings dispersed over the pampas. The Pampas of San José, between km 419 and 465 of the South Panamerican Highway, are the site of the famous Nazca Lines, comprised of over 70 giant figures and some 10,000 lines imprinted on the land, which have been declared the Cultural Heritage of Markind by UNESCO. Figures like those of monkey, a humming bird, a guanay (phalacrocorax bougainvilli) and a spider amaze people who look at them from the air or from the viewpoint located opposite km 420 of the Highway. According to María Reiche-Grosse, who dedicated most of her life to studying these lines, this is meant to be a giant astronomic calendar which dates back to approximately 500 A.C.
Lineas de Nazca
Opposite km 417 one may find the María Reiche Grosse Newman Site Museum, where part of the study material of the German researched has been gathered, as well as photograps, maps, drawings and models. There are several companies offering their services to fly over the Lines, both out Nazca as well as out of Ica.
THE CANTALLOC AQUEDUCT
The inhabitants of the old Nazca Culture built a huge number of canals which allowed them to irrigate vast areas of land. Some of them are still in use in spite of their age. Of the more than 30 existing Nazca aqueducts, the most popular one is Cantalloc, located 4 km away from the City of Nazca towards the Puquio – Cusco road. The hole or breathers observed in these canals allowed their users to control and clean the water.
The Nazca hydraulic engineering work is actually surprising. Underground galleries would capture the water filterning from the sub-soil, carrying along canals which were slightly titled towards the wells from where irrigation was controlled. The aqueducts were built with material from the area, such as quarry stones, flat rock and trunks of huarango, a typical tree in Ica.
CAHUACHI AND ESTAQUERÍA
After a 20 min trip from Nazca, 17 km to the northeast, one arrives at this old religious center of the Nazca Culture, comprised of large plazas, cementeries and two adobe pyramids which have been
deeply affected by the passing of time. Very close to it, is Estaquería, another Nazca building which is also believed to have been a ceremonial center and which still features some carob trees marking the contour of what is supposed to have been a platform.
On the slops of a not so high hill there are traces of an old Inca settlement, only 2 km away from the City of Nazca. These adobe and stone buildings preserve the trapezoidal niches typical of the Inca architecture. A viewpoint has been identified in the upper section from where one may distinguish the traces of the old Inca plazas that formed part of the complex.
Founded as a villa in 1640, on the orders of the Viceroy, Marquis of Mancera, today Pisco is a small city of fisherman and farmers located 76 km from Ica. Due to its proximity to the Bay of Paracas,
it has become a popular place for tourists. In its Main Square there is the Cathedral, dating back to the 17 th century, as well as the Moorish style building of the Municipality. A block away from the square is the Church of the Society, a Baroque temple housing paintings from the School of Cusci and gold leaf decorated altars.
The name of the city is almost immediately associated with pisco the grape liquor produced on Peru’s South Coast, especially in the Region of Ica. During Colonial times the popularity of the liquor was quickly related to the Port of Ica calling it aguardiente de pisco (grape brandy).
NATIONAL RESERVE OF PARACAS
It is located at a distance of 42 km from the City of Ica along a paved road, although access is easier from the City of Pisco (76 km
La Catedral Paracas
from Ica). This is a shelter for sea lions, Humboldt penguins, otters, dolphins and a great variety of resident and migrating birds, including the gray seagull, the Inca tern (larostema inca), the rayador (rhynchops nigra), the cholo ático, the red legged cormorant, (phalacrorax bougainvillii). The Paracas Reserve, which comprises 335,000 ha, is not only a natural paradise, but also an important archaeological center with traces of the ancient Paracas Culture that dates back from 700 B.C. to 400 A.C., a town of great weavers who produced multicolored cloths, true pieces of art.
Peñon del Fraile en Paracas
Paracas is the center of important tourist attractions, such as the Cathedral, the Candelabrum and the Ballestas Islands, as well as the beautiful beaches of Atenas, La Mina, El Raspón, Mendieta and Barlovento. To enjoy the beauty of the Reserve, one may travel both by land and by sea, boarding a boat at the Chaco beach, before going into the reserved area, next to the seaside resort of Paracas.
An impressive rocky formation, produced by erosion and the tide, crowned by a tower, is known as the Cathedral. Its cliffs are home to the Peruvian boobies (sula varegata) and other sea birds, while in
foto Lobo Marino
the lower section, known as the cave, one can observe the marine otter or chinguno (lutra feline) an animal which may hardly be found in other areas.
North of the Paracas Península, looking out to sea, there is a figure engraved in the sand, called the Candelabrum or Three Crosses, the origin of which continues to be unknown. For some it is a symbol that guided seamen and fishermen during the first half of the 19 th century.
Visiting the Ballestas Islands means coming into contact with the very rich wildlife of the Reserve, particulary with the sea lions, which can be observed at large.
foto Lobos marinos
South of the Reserve is Punta Arquillo, a cliff with an impressive view of the horizon, of the islands and of the sea lions gliding trough the waves. With a little luck one can see the majestic flight of the condor searching for food. Another interesting spot to visits is Independence Bay, two and half hours away from the Reserve, by car, over the sandy roads of the area, heading southwest. This is the bay where José de San Martín disembarked and which gave rise to his campaign to liberate Peru. The visits is worth it if one whishes to spend a peaceful day at the beach, or camping, In that case, Cruz de Carhuaz is one of the most advisable places to go to because of its large beaches and calm waters.
foto Windsurf Paracas
The different beaches offer visitors a chance to swim, fish, snorkel or winsurf. It is convenient to take good care upon entering the sea, as there are usually pastelillos or thing rays, which may injure bathers. It is recommended to wear dosed tennis shoes or to drag ones feet to scare them away.
JULIO C. TELLO SITE MUSEUM
This Museum is located at the entrance to the National Reserve of Paracas. It features various objects found during the excavations carried out at the archaelogical sites of the area, such as Cerro Colorado and Cabezas Largas. The exhibits include remains of the first inhabitants of the region, engaged in hunting and collection, as well as samples of the splendid textiles, ceramics and handcrafts in general, related to the Paracas Culture.
CERRO COLORADO AND CABEZAS LARGAS
The desert’s sand covered two huge cementeries: Cerro Colorado, at the foot of the Interpretation Center of the foot of the Interpretation Center of the National Reserve of Paracas; and Cabezas Largas, only 200m away from the Julio C. Tello Site Museum. Peruvian archaeologist Julio C. Tello fervently spent his time researching the peninsula, which in 1925 led him to discover traces of the Paracas Culture. For generations, this culture had buried its dead in two types of tombs: In Cerro Colorado, dating back to approximately 400 A.C., resembling the shape of an inverted cup with a deep funerary chamber, where mummies were found, carefull wrapped in several layers of cloths. Some skulls showed signs of trepanation, successfully in many cases, by the Paracas. At present, the remains are covered, and only part of some walls may be observed.
The Cabezas Largas Cementery, dating back to 200 B.C. owes its name to the elongated shape of some of the skulls, that were intentionally deformed, perhaps as a symbol of authority. This also evidences changes in the funerary customs, since individuals were buried in groups at a very small depth, wrapped in carefully woven cloths. These cloths are considered to be the best example of the Peruvian textile art, both for the excellent choice of dyes and the cotton fabrics with which they were made, as well as for their fine embroidered designs. Many colors are used and a great variety of anthropomorphic beings with feline and bird-like features reflecting a complex cosmic vision, decorated these dazzling cloths.
foto Tambo Colorado
Heading north along the South Pan-american Highway opposite km 229, there is a detour towards the Los Libertadores Highway. Tambo Colorado, an important Inca administrative center may be found opposite km 5 on this highway. Its original name appears to have been Pucatampu. Built during the years of the administration of Inca Pachacútec, this constituded a connecting point with the Inca road joining Ayacucho with the Pacific coast. Its stucco walls still have the niches where one can observe traces of the red and yellow pigments used in their decoration. Distributed around a plaza, there are different building, some of which were used in ceremonies and others for more profane purposes, such as warehouses or living quarters.
Following the South Pan-american Highway, northwards, 103 km
foto: Plaza de Armas de Chincha
from Ica, one arrives at Chincha, a warm city which combines the African heritage and certain traditions, Peruvian paso horses and cock fights. El Carmen, 6 km from the city, features Afro-Peruavian tradition. To the beat of a wooden rectangular drum called cajón, a quijada de burro, a typical Peruvian musical instrument made from a donkey’s jaw and a guitar, these African descendants brought during the Colonial times to work in the haciendas, preserve their dances and their exquisite culinary tradition.
HACIENDA SAN JOSÉ
foto Hacienda San Jose
This Colonial estate is located 15 km southeast of Chincha, in the District of El Carmen. In the late 17 th century, Jesuits built one of the most beautiful haciendas on this property which remains until today. Its arches, its portals and its large patio give one the feeling of having gone back a few centuries in time. The chapel features a beautiful Baroque after, finely carved in wood. During a tour around the state one may carriage wheels used long ago. Also worth seeing is an underground to some versions, the slaves were taken.
TAMBO DE MORA AND LA CENTINELA
The Chincha Culture flourished in this Region between the 9 th and
foto Tambo de Mora
15 th century A.C. Despite having been conquered by the Incas, this culture maintained its good name and authority thanks to heir commercial activities. The Chincha people skillfully sailed to Ecuador from where they brought mullets or spondyli, a very valuable seashell for the different Andean cultures. At a distance of 11 km from the City of Chincha, lies Tambo de Mora, one of the most important administrative centers of this culture in pre Hispanic times, that formed part of the complex known s Chinchaycámac and which is estimated to have comprised some 500ha. The Centinela Ruins, 8 km away from the South Pan-american Highway, also formed part of the complex. It features pyramid shaped structure, a large number of patios and walls decorated with geometrical embossed figures. The buildings underwent certain changes during the rule of the Incas.
Ica Festivities Calendar
FEBRUARY IN ICA
Black Summer in Chincha (fourth week)
foto Ritmos negros
In the District of El Carmen, a festival is held for one full week in honor of the black people. Storytelling and poetry contests are held, as well as black dance festivals amusing, lively marches and other activities.
MARCH IN ICA
The Grape Harvest Festival (Vendimia) (first fortnight)
The Festival of the Grape Harvest in the City of Ica, called La Vendimia, is one of the most famous in Peru. The festivities include exhibits of Peruvian paso horses, cock fights, dances and cultural and sporting events. The Vendimia Parade is organized on the main day, where a group of festival queens’ parade in cars throwing bunches of grapes as the pass. This is a good time to taste the different Ica wines and piscos, as well as the popular cachina, liquor prepared from fermented grape must.
Easter (date subject to change)
The Cities of Ica, Pisco and Chincha devotedly recall the passion and death of Christ. Religious prayers on nine days and processions are characteristic of this celebration. On Thursday night, the image of Our Lord of Luren tours the streets of Ica, while the procession of Our Lord of Agony is held in Pisco.
MAY IN ICA
15th Tourism Week in Nazca
A series of cultural activities are held in the city of Nazca in honor of Maria Reiche, who spent many years studying the Nazca Lines.
JUNE IN ICA
17th Jubilee Week of Ica
The Iqueños, people from Ica, celebrate the anniversary of the foundation of their city with a series of activities, such as dances, school parades and lively marches.
29th Fishermen’s Festival, St. Peter and St. Paul’s Religious Holiday
The cove of San Andrés, in Pisco, holds festivities in honor of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, whose images are taken on a picturesque boat ride, accompanied by musical bands and fishermen. The celebrations include cuisine contests featuring shellfish and fish based dishes, challenging the imagination of the best of cooks.
SEPTEMBER IN ICA
Tourist Week in Pisco – 8th September
This is to commemorate the disembarkation of José de San Martín and his liberation troops at the Bay of Independence. The celebrations include festivals, contests, pageants and tours along the main tourist attractions of the Province.
Tourist Week in Ica – 27th September
In order to promote the main tourist attractions of the city, Ica organizes Peruvian paso horseshows, wine contests, pisco tasting events, walks from wine cellar to wine cellar and the International Sand Boarding Contest.
OCTOBER IN ICA
Our Lord of Luren (second and third weeks)
Foto Señor de Luren
The festivities in honor of Our Lord of Luren take place on the third Sunday in October, when his image is carried in a procession along the main streets of the city. Hundreds of people travel to the City of Ica to join the procession, and to participate in the recitation of prayers on nine days to seek special favors and show their devotion. Ica’s streets are filled with beautiful arches and carpets of flowers, especially made for the occasion.