Geology: time and sand
The desert is beautiful and Paracas is one of its best representatives. Indeed, the Paracas peninsula and bay, its islands and surrounding areas are some of the most attractive sites found in the Peruvian coast. This is not only the consequence of its beautiful landscape and history, but also of the natural attractions it presents, and among these, one that is as interesting but not so popular is the peculiar geography and geological history of the area. The lack of vegetation and scarce humidity of the area turn Paracas into an open geology book in which it is also possible to read about the Earth’s past.
It is in Paracas and its islands where the old mountain range that runs along the Coast reappears, and where the marine sediments of the Tertiary and the Earth’s oldest rocks, the Precambrian, formed before there was any life in the planet, come to the surface.
The coastal mountain range is a relatively short range, which begins on the Cerros de Amotape on the North of Peru, the so-called Silla de Paita and the Illescas Peninsula, and then submerges into the ocean where it is mostly covered by sediments. It then resurfaces close to Paracas, forming the high parts of the peninsula, and it is responsible for the existence of the islands found in the region.
In the high areas of this mountain range stand out plutonic rocks, granites and granodiorites formed in the Earth’s core, and which appear as a consequence of a blending of the cortex that happened in ancient times. These deformations have brought sediments that are even older to the surface and which can be observed in the cliffs formed by the action of the ocean waves hitting against the most westerly slopes of the mountain range. These cliffs can have up to 600 meters of height, and they form true precipices such as Cerro Lechuza, the highest hill in the Paracas peninsula, and Morro Quemado, south of the Independence bay. The oldest sediments correspond to the Precambrian, and where deposited more than 600 million years ago.
This is the time when the most primitive living organisms start appearing. And although most of them are microscopic, there are some exceptions like some small algae and worms. The fact that these ancient outcroppings are not commonly found in Peruvian territory turns the Paracas area and the beaches located south, into an important geological attraction.