The promise of sunny skies, dune buggy rides, drinking local wine, and sandboarding around an oasis make Ica an attractive trip to take from Lima. So, if you’re wondering how to get from Lima to Ica, start packing your bags; transportation methods are limited, but frequent departures make Ica easy to get to.
Finding Ica on a map
Ica sits south of Lima and is an inland destination, although you can arrive at the ocean in under an hour. So, how far is it from Lima to Ica?
The Lima to Ica distance is just over 300 kilometers. That equates to an approximately 5.5-hour bus ride, including a stop in Paracas to drop off passengers. However, if you rent a car and drive, you can expect to shave off 30-45 minutes, bringing your travel time down to under four hours.
Needless to say, Ica doesn’t make a great day trip from Lima. However, it’s an excellent option for a weekend trip or as a stop on your way to other destinations in southern Peru.
The best (and only) way to get from Lima to Ica
Let’s get the bad news out of the way first. If you’re the type of traveler who loves having transportation choices, it’s time to put your flexibility muscles to work. The only way to travel from Lima to Ica is by road.
That means there aren’t any Lima to Ica flights or trains up for grabs. The good news is that the trip to Ica is scenic with desert and coastal landscapes. I’ll write more about setting yourself up for the best views shortly. But for now, below are the two options you have for getting to Ica from Lima:
- Taking a bus
- Renting a car
I’ve taken the bus from Lima to Ica several times, so I’ll share my top tips based on trial and error.
Eenie, meenie, miney, mo: Picking your Lima to Ica bus
Braving Peruvian driving by renting a car isn’t for everyone. It’s certainly not for me! So, in my opinion, the best way to get from Lima to Ica is by bus. Let’s assess your bus choices.
Many bus companies operate the route between Lima and Ica. Some examples include:
- Peru Bus
- Cruz del Sur
Peru Bus is a solid choice if you’re on a budget since seats start at $10 per person for their economy bus line. Buses from Peru Bus tend to have an older appearance. However, you’ll still get several benefits that Cruz del Sur and Oltursa offer. An onboard restroom, charging port, and air conditioning are among them.
Should you be willing to spend some extra soles, you can upgrade your bus experience by taking Cruz del Sur, Oltursa, or the VIP Peru Bus line. By doing so, you’ll have seats that recline between 140-160 degrees. You’ll also have a personal television.
So what’s the price difference, you wonder? The 140-degree seats with Cruz del Sur start around $16. The 160-degree seats are $19 per person.
Choosing your bus schedule
It isn’t necessary to purchase Lima to Ica bus tickets far in advance, provided that your travel dates don’t fall around a holiday. Nevertheless, to increase the chances of locking in your preferred departure time and seat, it’s a good idea to buy your tickets once you nail down your travel date.
Peru Bus, Cruz del Sur, and Oltursa offer several Lima to Ica departures throughout the day. Morning departures from Lima are the most popular since they get tourists to Ica in time to take a sunset dune buggy and sandboarding tour.
Why your bus seat matters
If you’re a scenery buff, choosing the right seat can make or break your Lima to Ica bus experience. So when you book your ticket, make sure to select a seat on the passenger side of the bus. That way, you’ll get glimpses of the ocean throughout the ride.
To bring this scenery hack up a notch, try booking a seat in the front row on the passenger side of the second story of your bus (phew, that’s a mouthful!). I got lucky and landed this seat on my most recent trip with Cruz del Sur. These seats often sell out first, because the views are unparalleled to any other spot on the bus. Just keep in mind that the second-story seats on most buses don’t recline as much as those on the first floor.
The low-down on bus stations
The bus companies have their own bus stations in both Lima and Ica. However, they all operate similarly. When you arrive at your Lima bus station, you’ll need to check in any bags you have. They’ll then give you a ticket, and you’ll use that to pick up your luggage in Ica.
Most of the buses that run the Lima to Ica route make a stop in Paracas before arriving in Ica. Paracas is beautiful and worth a visit. But make sure not to get off there if you’re booked to Ica; the turnaround time is usually only a few minutes.
If you travel with Cruz del Sur or Peru Bus, you’ll only be a couple of blocks from the main plaza upon your arrival in Ica. In contrast, it’ll take you about 15 minutes to walk to the plaza from Oltursa’s bus station.
Since there aren’t many touristy things to do in downtown Ica, many people choose to head straight to their hotel. Alternatively, arrange a taxi for the four-kilometer drive to Huacachina, the only natural oasis in South America. There, you can climb a sand dune to stretch your legs after your bus ride.
Three is ideal because then you can wander the city for a few and then spend a day in Huacachina.
Not so much. It’s mostly flat, with a few curves and hills here and there.