The Paracas National Reserve is located in Ica, Peru and consists of the Paracas Peninsula, coastal areas and tropical desert extending to the south slightly past Punta Caimán, a total of 335,000 hectares (3,350 km2) (217,594 hectares (2,175.94 km2) are marine waters, and 117,406 hectares (1,174.06 km2) are part of the mainland). It includes Bahía de la Independencia (Independence Bay) and miles of coastal waters. Its main purpose is to preserve the marine ecosystem and protect the historical cultural heritage related to ancient indigenous peoples, mostly of the Paracas culture.
The reserve is home to many species of wildlife, particularly birds, which are largely concentrated at the water's edge in what is called the largest concentration of birds on earth. Near the entrance inside the reserve is the Muséo Sitio de Julio C. Tello. Named for the archeologist who made major discoveries about the ancientParacas culture, it features artifacts and interpretation, as well as information about the flora and fauna of this unique region.
Established in 1975, it is the oldest marine reserve in Peru, and it incorporates a variety of marine habitats and tropical desert. In addition to the biological areas, the reserve protects prehistoric sites of the Paracas culture and other ancient civilizations. Near the museum is the Paracas Necropolis (100 BCE - CE 300), comprising the burial sites known as the
Cabezas Largas and Cerro Colorado, where Julio C. Tello found many fine grave goods buried with mummified remains of the Paracas elite.
Also in the reserve is
Pampa de Santo Domingo, where archeologists have dated finds of human remains to 6500 BC. Found there was a decorated quena (flute), believed to be the first musical instrument of Peru.