The seas of this marine reserve, four hours south of Lima, team with life. You can take a boat ride to see – and smell – islands housing vast colonies of sea lions, penguins and the many other seabirds that once made Peru the guano capital of the world. But Paracas National Reserve also includes a huge chunk of desert coast, complete with shifting dunes straight out of Lawrence of Arabia, and spectacular, empty, windswept beaches. You will need a car, preferably four-wheel drive, to explore. There are no hotels inside the reserve, so most visitors stay in the tiny town of Paracas. One of the best, middle-range hotels is Hotel El Condor, facing out onto the beach, with 10 rooms, decorated in a modern style and each with a terrace.