Orientation

Ica

Photo by: Sabrina Bucher

Palpa is a small community on the route between Ica and Nazca. It has a very cute small town feel, and because it is in the shadow of Nazca, it is not bombarded with obnoxious tourist traps and agencies that are found in more touristy areas.

Palpa is very much alive with incredible agriculture, surviving in a fertile river valley in the middle of one of the driest deserts in the world. Palpa is most known for having the sweetest oranges in Peru, and during orange season (July-September), oranges are sold in abundance on the streets, in the markets and often given as gifts. The best way to consume Palpa oranges is in juice form – they are sweet and juicy and you can find people on the streets who will squeeze it fresh for you on the spot. During the hottest summer months of January-March, Palpa is flooded with many varieties of fresh mangoes, which are also an incredible treat.

Apart from its fruit, Palpa offers some great archaeological sites from the Nazca culture. There is a lost city of ruins, many petroglyphs and geoglyphs and other beautiful remnants of the ancient culture. Due to its “off the beaten path” status, the sites are not over-run by tourists and often times you find yourself being the only one there. They are also well preserved with a true feeling of their ancient roots, such as finding the ground littered with shards of ancient pottery as you would through the streets of the lost city.

Activities

Archaeological Sites

Ica, Palpa, Peru

Reloj Solar
Photo by: Sabrina Bucher

The archaeological sites are spread out around town and you will need to arrange transportation if you want to see them all in a day or two. A couple are close, for example, the Solar Clock is only a 5 minute ride in a moto taxi, and should cost only S/.3 (more if you want the moto to wait and take you back…it would be about a 20 minute walk, but if you go in the middle of the day, the sun here is VERY strong and there is little shade, so plan accordingly).

For the sites such as the Ciudad Perdida (lost city), Puente Colgante (hanging bridge), or the Petroglifos de Chichitara (The petroglyphs), you will need to contract a taxi which can be between 30 and 50 soles.  You can also visit the museum in Palpa, which is located in the Plaza de Armas, part of the Municipality (open 10-5 weekdays) and they may be able to help you coordinate transportation.

For the lost city and the solar clock, there are sometimes workers there to collect a S/.5 entry fee, so be prepared.

La Ciudad Perdida

Ica, Peru

La Ciudad Perdida
Photo by: Sabrina

La Ciudad Perdida is a site with ruins from an ancient city. The remains of the building are mostly stone walls that are about two feet tall, but you can see very clearly the layout of a larger city. The old roads are still intact and lined with some great stonework, and you can walk around and enter all of the structures at will. It is impossible to walk around the city without stepping on pieces of ancient pottery. For those who are very active, there are some great hills surrounding the city that you can climb in a reasonable time and get a great view of the city, and of the valley surrounding it.
**CAUTION – Palpa is a desert and the sun burns strong, so be sure to wear hats and sunscreen. Protective clothing is also a good idea if you have fair skin. In the lost city, there is no protection from the sun as you are walking around so bring lots of water and cover yourself. The hottest months are December-March, but even in the winter, the mid-day sun is strong. **

La Puente Colgante

La Puente Colgante is an old hanging bridge, which is a small but fun little thrill to cross. The best part about going to this location is that it is a nice place to relax and hang out. It is on a river, which is great for swimming between  February and September (otherwise it’s fairly low). There is some nice scenery and big trees where you can relax and have a picnic lunch.

The Solar Clock

El Reloj Solar is a grid and spiral of lines drawn on the ground by an ancient culture. Maybe not quite as accurate as your iPhone, but pretty good considering the technology of the times. You can hike to it from Palpa in less than an hour, just ask anyone for El Reloj Solar

Petroglyphs

Palpa, Peru, Ica

Petroglyph
Photo by: Sabrina

Los Petroglifos de Chichitara are ancient rock drawings found on large boulders in the hillsides. They are about 10km up the valley through the orange and mango groves to get to the hill. From the street, follow the train and climb up the mountain and you will find the rocks along the way. They are marked with spray painted numbers, but they are scattered all over the hill and it is almost like a treasure hunt to see which ones you can find. Some are on high, fairly steep perches, so be daring, but be careful. If you go to the top of the hill, it is tradition to leave a small pile of rocks, say a prayer, and make a wish to mark your presence and accomplishment, while enjoying a beautiful view of the valley.

Contact Alfonso Tijeros about arranging tourist activities – he can be found at the Manantial la Maquina (S/.3 moto taxi from the center of town)

Iglesia de San Javier 

Ica, Palpa, Peru

Iglesia de San Javier
Photo by: Sabrina Bucher

Let’s be straight about this – there are a lot of churches in Peru, many of which have interesting architectures and histories. That said, this is our favorite. Built in the 1700s by the Jesuits, it is no longer actively used and totally neglected, which is probably why we like it so much. There is a passage down to catacombs, with skeletal remains in the tombs; there are two bell towers, accessed via winding, crumbling stairs; there are beautiful views from the roof (be careful!); and there is a dome-roofed wing with remarkably intact frescos in each corner of the ceiling. In all, it’s one of those Peruvian ruins that makes you feel like Indiana Jones while exploring it.

To get there, go to the main drag in Palpa and ask for the colectivos para San Javier. These are shared cars that will go out to the church’s town for only S/.4. You can also take a cab, which will be more comfortable but more expensive (around S/.10).

 

The Special Sauce

Palpa, Peru, Ica, Nazca

Photo by: Sabrina

As Peace Corps Volunteers, our favorite getaway spot is a small swimming hole called Manantial la Maquina. It is a short drive or walk from the center of town, hidden in a cute farm setting. There is a naturally fed spring with lots of fish and it is the perfect place to sit and relax and cool off. The owner of the land is Alfonso Tijeros who is also a big promoter of Palpa Tourism and knows almost everything there is to know about the area (he doesn’t, however, know English – just a heads up). I recommend that this be the first place that you vista and begin coordinating as Alfonso has great connections and will help arrange your whole trip. 

Lodging

Manantial la Maquina

Peru, Ica

A Room in Manantial la Maquina

Manantial la Maquina is our top suggestion. There are four rooms available with doubles and triples. There is hot water and breakfast included, but so far they do not have wi-fi or televisions. It is a great escape to be staying in the beautiful surroundings of the farms, and an entrance to the swimming hole is included (if you don’t stay here, access to the swimming hole is S/.3). About S/.80 a night. A quick moto-taxi ride from the center of town for S/.3.

Manantial’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/ElManantialDeLaMaquinaPalpaIca

Palpa Lines Hotel 

In the center of town, there is a great hotel named the Palpa Lines Hotel. They offer simple, matrimonial, double, and triple rooms. It works out to cost about S/.25 per person depending on the room. Clean and safe. Private bathrooms with hot water, cable and wi-fi. They even have one room that is air conditioned. They are also one of the only places in town that exchanges dollars.

Alubias

Alubias is smaller and has only a few rooms, but they have an attached restaurant with a great cook and sanitary conditions. They also offer hot water, internet and cable for similar prices as Palpa Lines. The downside is that they are located directly on the Pan American Highway and can be noisy with many trucks, cars, and people constantly passing by.

Dining Options

Alubias

Alubias is a great, touristy restaurant that offers meals a la cart, as well as “menu” which is a cheaper lunch with limited options. The “menu” price here is S/.8 and their a la cart meals start around S/.12. They do have clean conditions, are sure to boil their water for juices and teas that they serve, and have a friendly staff. It is located on the corner of the PanAm and Calle Jose Tijeros.

The Restaurant Across from Alubias

Ica, Peru

Cerdito al Humo

Across the Pan Am from Alubias is a smaller, more small town restaurant that offers a normal “menu” option for S.6. It includes soup, an entree, and a beverage. It is an inexpensive option and the food is solid. They are very cleanly with their kitchen and food so we recommend it if you are looking to try something that is more typical, non-tourist cuisine.

Claudia

There is also Claudia, which is a block towards the bridge away from town (about 1 block past the police station) that offers good food. They serve a typical soup, Chupe de Camarones, a type of local chowder with potatoes, corn, a little bit of milk and the local crawfish from the river.

Cerdito al Humo

This spot is a bit more expensive but the pork is some of the best in Peru. They smoke the pork right in the backyard of the restaurant and serve it with fried platano and a salad (which has excellent dressing). We also highly recommend the orange, which is fresh squeezed and has a touch of locally made honey. Wooden tables on a patio, with hammocks hung from mango and orange trees set a tranquil mood that will make you want to stay for longer than a regular lunch. Price: S/.22 for a plate; S/.12 for a pitcher of orange juice

Community Contacts

The Palpa Museum will at least have someone that can point you in the right direction. It is located in the municipality, in the Plaza de Armas.

Alfonso Tijero is a great man who can help to coordinate tourist activities and can be found at the Manantial la Maquina (S/.3 moto taxi from the center of town).

Juan Arce Garibay. You can find him through his website http://palpa.galeon.com/

Directions

Palpa is very easy to get to as it is on the PanAmerican and on the way to Nazca, where most tourist try to go while they are in Peru. Unfortunately, most of the bigger, luxury bus lines do not have agencies in Palpa, and therefore do not stop.

The best way to get here is to take a SOYUZ bus from their agency in Ica. Take the bus in the direction towards Nazca, and tell them that you are going to Palpa. You may have to repeat yourself and double check because they assume most touristy-looking travelers go to Nazca. After an hour and a half of driving through the desert, you will finally reach signs of life going through Santa Cruz, Rio Grande, and then finally, Palpa. It is a principal stop, and you will be let off in front of the gas station. The Plaza de Armas is about 3 blocks in from the Pan-Am.

Check Out the Map

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Palpa

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Palpa -14.533933, -75.185483 Palpa is a small community on the route between Ica and Nazca. It has a very cute small town feel, and because it is in the shadow of Nazca, it is not bombarded with obnoxious tourist traps and agencies that are found in very touristy areas. Check it out here.