The Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas is one of the best activities and experiences that you can have in Peru. Located in the serene Paracas National Reserve, the Golden Shadows Trek is one of the most outstanding Paracas tours on offer. Indeed, if you’re after a stunning close of the day, you can’t beat the Paracas sunset during the Golden Shadows Trek.
In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas. In particular, we’ll talk about tour options, the expected itinerary and the possibility of hiking independently. Also, we’ll cover other great things to do in the Paracas National Reserve and other awesome tours you can do in Paracas, Ica.
Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas: Brief Overview
The Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas is a brilliant coastal walk. By doing this hike, you’ll get to explore an untouched area of Paracas National Reserve. All the while, near the end of the trek, you’ll enjoy, what has to be, the best sunset in Paracas. So, if you’re liking the sounds of an awesome Paracas sunset, you’ll certainly want to join a Golden Shadows Trek tour. Certainly, joining a tour is the easiest and most convenient way to do this hike.
Golden Shadows Trek Paracas Tours
To join a Golden Shadows Trek Paracas tour, you basically have two options. You can book tickets in person when you arrive in Paracas or book in advance online. Personally, Beck and I booked in person at Paracas es Aventura, around midday of the day of the tour. Tickets were $26USD/person. Their office is located next to Restaurant Paracas. It’s also possible to book the tour specifically with Paracas es Aventura online. However, the booking system sometimes won’t allow you to book the tour the day of. So, you’d need to book online at least the day before you intend on doing the Golden Shadows Trek.
If you want to book the Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas with a well-known and reputable online travel agency, then look no further than Viator. They offer the Golden Shadows Trek Paracas tour for $35USD/person. Sure, booking this way is a bit pricier. But, booking this tour on Viator gives you a better free cancellation policy. You’ll get a full refund if you cancel up to 24 hours in advance. If you book with Paracas es Aventura, you’d need to cancel before 6pm (Peru time), up to 48 hours in advance. And, you’d still have to pay a 10% administration fee.
We’ve also heard Paracas Explorer is another great company offering Paracas tours. Anyway, whichever tour company you go with, they all provide the same service and itinerary. Let’s look at the standard Golden Shadows Trek itinerary below.
Golden Shadows Trek Paracas Tour Itinerary
Because it’s a sunset walk, Golden Shadow Trek tours generally leave Paracas at around 3:30pm. During the approx. 45-minute drive to the trailhead, you’ll pass the Paracas National Reserve ticket office. Here, you’ll pay the entrance fee – S/11 per person ($3USD per person). After entering Paracas National Reserve, you’ll briefly stop at Mirador Salinas de Otuma to observe the impressive salt lake. Not far away, you’ll arrive at the trailhead to begin the Golden Shadows Trek at around 4:30pm.
The hike takes around 1.5 hours. The trail starts at Playa Playon and finishes at Playa Mendieta at around 5:45–6:15pm. This perfectly times with an incredible Paracas sunset. Then, you’ll jump back in the van, and arrive back in Paracas at around 6:45–7pm.
What’s Included and Not Included?
Let’s look at what’s generally included and excluded in a Golden Shadows Trek Paracas tour.
Included: roundtrip transportation from Paracas and a guide
Not included: Paracas National Reserve entrance fee – S/11 per person ($3USD per person)
Paracas National Reserve Map (Golden Shadows Trek Route)
Golden Shadows Trek Quick Stats
- Type: One-way
- Distance: 3.65km
- Time: 1.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 135m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Playa Playon
Golden Shadows Trek: Trail Description
Starting at Playa Playon, you’ll have a long stretch of pebble beach to enjoy. From the get-go, we experienced high-speed winds, which is very typical of visiting Paracas National Reserve around sunset. So, don’t forget your windproof jacket! Soon enough, you’ll head south, passing some small fisherman huts. The trail then gradually rises up a small hill, revealing mindblowing views of the Paracas National Reserve coastline.
From here, the soft sand gives way to a firmer rocky terrain. The trail then undulates as you follow the coast. You’ll find amazingly rugged cliff formations carved by nature over many years. Set against the golden-brown jagged cliff walls, the aqua blue ocean looks absolutely incredible. Indeed, there’s no need to rush or speed hike during the Golden Shadows Trek.
What’s speed hiking? It’s hiking at a cracking pace for any reason of your choice. Maybe you’re speed hiking for a workout, or, to fit in multiple trails in a day. Find out more about speed hiking here.
The further you wander along the coastline, the more immense the coastal scenery becomes. Especially, as time ticks away, the sky brings new colours and hues. Yep, it must be getting awfully close to an epic Paracas sunset.
The Best Paracas Sunset
At Playa Mendieta, you’ll enjoy a belter of a Paracas sunset. The sky genuinely erupts, producing otherworldy pinks, yellows, purples and oranges. As you walk along the golden desert-type terrain of Paracas National Park, you’ll literally be exploring in the golden shadows as the sun sets. We certainly think the name of the trek is appropriate!
Around Playa Mendieta, you’ll find many rock pools, each mirroring the epic colours of the sunset. It’s hard to tear away from the immense Paracas sunset. But, as they say, all good things come to an end. So, after witnessing the best sunset in Paracas, you’ll have completed the Golden Shadows Trek! Now, it’s time to jump back in the van and head back to Paracas!
Golden Shadows Trek Recap
The Golden Shadows Trek is one of the must-do Paracas tours. Not only will you get to explore the magnificent Paracas National Reserve; but, you’ll experience an amazing sunset. To that end, Peru doesn’t have tonnes in the way of coastal walks. So, take advantage and give the Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas a crack!
Paracas National Reserve Peru
The Paracas National Reserve, also known as Paracas National Park and Paracas Nature Reserve, is a beautiful setting for the Golden Shadows Trek. This protected area is located in Ica, on the western coast of Peru. In fact, Paracas National Reserve was officially established as a national park in 1975. It’s 3,350 km² and filled with gorgeous desert, coastline, ocean and islands. Truly, the desolate desert set among the brimming ocean and fertile islands is a fascinating eclectic mix. With so much to see and explore at Paracas National Reserve, let’s figure out how you’ll get there.
How to Get to Paracas National Reserve
To see Paracas National Reserve in Peru, you’ll, of course, need to get to Paracas. Most tourists will visit Paracas from Lima, Huacachina, Nazca or Arequipa. There isn’t an airport in Paracas. So, you’ll likely be getting a bus. Let’s go through the common bus routes to Paracas.
- Lima to Paracas: this is the most common route. That’s because most tourists flying to Peru will arrive in Lima. Cruz del Sur provides half a dozen services running the Lima to Paracas route daily. You’ll find early morning departures (4–7:30am) and an afternoon departure at 1:30pm. The journey takes around 3.5 hours and costs approx. S/64 ($21USD).
- Huacachina to Paracas: Peru Hop is the only operator running a direct service from Huacahina to Paracas (1.5 hours). But, as far as we’re aware, you can’t buy a single ticket for this journey with Peru Hop. So, if you’re not keen on a Peru Hop tour, you’d need to get a taxi from Huacachina to Ica (15 minutes; S/10–15). Then, jump on a bus from Ica to Pisco. Peru Bus runs almost hourly services from 10:30am–10pm. The journey takes around 1.5 hours and costs S/10 ($2.50USD). Then, again, you’d jump in a taxi from Pisco to Paracas (30 minutes; S/20–30).
- Nazca to Paracas: Cruz del Sur operates three daily services (10am, 12:30pm and 2pm). The journey time is around 3.5–4 hours. Costs are around S/44–55 ($11–14USD).
- Arequipa to Paracas: this route isn’t ideal because it’s a 16.5–17.5 hour journey. Multiple operators offer this route as a night bus. Costs vary between S/110–190 ($27–$47USD). Instead of taking this arduous journey, you may as well break up the journey with a stop at either Nazca or Huacachina or both!
To do the Golden Shadows Trek, you’ll have found yourself in the gorgeous town of Paracas. The Peruvian port town is actually a district, falling under the Pisco province in the department of Ica. Paracas has pleasant warm weather all year round, only spoilt by the typically strong winds.
Admittedly, most tourists don’t visit Paracas for the Golden Shadows Trek. Rather, tourists visit Paracas to explore the islands, Paracas peninsula and other areas of the national park.
Other Things to Do in Paracas Peru
There are many awesome day trips and day tours that you can do from Paracas. Essentially, Paracas is the gateway to the stunning Bastellas Islands and, of course, the Paracas National Reserve. When visiting Paracas, most tourists will stay for a day or two to check out these spectacular natural places. The easiest way to explore the natural highlights of Paracas is to take tours. Let’s look at the best Paracas tours below.
Other Paracas Peru Tours
Other than the Golden Shadows Trek tour, you should definitely do some other Paracas tours whilst you’re there. Paracas tours are so cheap and easy to organise, that it would be rude not to. Besides, the Golden Shadows Trek starts at 3:30pm. So, you should have time to do a morning or half-day tour before doing the trek. So, which one of the following Paracas tours are you keen on?
- Paracas National Reserve tour: the usual Paracas Reserve tour visits other places in the national park that you won’t see during the Golden Shadows Trek. Typically, you’ll visit well-known viewpoints and beaches during this tour.
- Paracas Boat Tour – Bastellas Island Tour: nicknamed the Poor Man’s Galapagos, Bastellas Island is teeming with birdlife and marine life. On this tour, expect to see penguins, sea lions, humpback whales, dolphins and the Peruvian booby. You’ll also pass the peninsula’s Paracas Candelabra – a spectacular large geoglyph.
- Paracas Paragliding: want something a little more extreme? Why not try your hand at paragliding? It’s a heart-stopping activity offered by the reputable Paracas es Aventura. From the sky, you’ll enjoy immense views of Paracas National Reserve.
- Paracas Quad Rental: want something a little less extreme? Then an ATV tour around Paracas National Reserve should do it. You’ll find a fair few tour operators in Paracas offering this exciting tour.
Where to Stay: Paracas Hotels
To do the Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas, you’ll probably need a place to stay. Here are the best places to stay in Paracas!
- 360 Lagoon Hotel Paracas: this hotel is conveniently located in Paracas. 360 Lagoon Hotel Paracas has an awesome pool, shared kitchen area and sun lounge. We hear it’s a great place for a Paracas sunset.
- Gran Hotel Paracas: another popular option in Paracas. The Gran Hotel Paracas, also known as, Hotel Gran Palma, is located right by the beach, but also has its own pool. Offering breakfast and ocean views, this hotel is a solid base for your exploration of the Golden Shadows Trek.
- Condo Hotel Paracas: this hotel is a newcomer on the scene. But, Nautical Condominium Apartment, simply known as the Condo Hotel Paracas, is emerging as one of the best stays in Paracas. You’ll enjoy splendid ocean views and new, stylish rooms.
Here are the most commonly asked questions about the Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas National Reserve.
What is the Trek Difficulty?
Easy – this is a leisurely sunset stroll. There are only some minor elevations. If anything, it’s the strong winds, which make the trek a little tougher.
How Long Does the Golden Shadows Trek Tour Go For?
Around 3–3.5 hours.
Is it Possible to Do the Golden Shadows Trek Independently?
Yes, it’s possible. But, probably not worth it. You could get a taxi to Paracas National Reserve. But, only a 4×4, van, quad bike or high-clearance vehicle can get you to the official trailhead at Playa Playon. Alternatively, you could start the walk from the roadside to Playa Playon. From there, you could walk the route shown above, and then get your taxi driver to meet you at Playa Mendieta. Or, you could walk a loop, returning via the road to meet the driver at the point they initially dropped you off. Either way, you’re going to have to cough up money to hire a taxi driver for a few hours. So, you may as well just do the Golden Shadows Trek Paracas tour.
Is the Golden Shadows Trek Worth It?
An astounding yes! If you find yourself in Paracas, you can’t miss this sensational sunset!
What to Wear and Pack
Why do you need this?
See it in action
These hiking boots are very comfortable – perfect for trekking in Peru
This camera is super lightweight and compact, so it's perfect to take trekking. The Sony Cybershot RX100 VII takes high-quality photos and 4K videos
We captured some great footage here with the GoPro HERO 9
It's really windy at Paracas National Reserve. Wear a neck gaiter to protect yourself from the flying sand!
A windproof jacket is an absolute necessity during a visit to the windy Paracas National Reserve
When doing the Golden Shadows Trek in Paracas National Reserve, you should also take water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat.
For a more complete gear list, read our 66 Travel Accessories That You Must Travel With. Or, for a general summary of everything you’d need for a backpacking trip in Peru, check out our Ultimate Packing Checklist.
- Peru is more than just Machu Picchu and the Nazca Lines: sure, go and see the well-known attractions in Peru. But, spend time at the lesser-known places such as the Paracas National Reserve.
- Use Busbud: a great way to book bus tickets in advance at a very reasonable rate.
- Do a Bastellas Island tour morning: you’ll then have plenty of time for lunch before the Golden Shadows Trek.
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