Ica’s main square has been repainted post-earthquake in generic mustard-yellow to reflect its ‘city of eternal sun’ moniker. The two sinuous obelisks in its center are supposed to signify the Nazca and Paracas cultures.
The streets surrounding the Plaza de Armas display the odd impressive Spanish colonial mansions while everywhere else bustling commerce reigns.
Ica is Peru’s largest and most revered wine producer, though it’s desert-defying vineyards are unlikely to get any Euro wine-snobs jumping on a plane anytime soon. The main drawback is ‘sweetness’. Even Peru’s semi-seco (medium-dry) wines are sweet by most yardsticks. Nonetheless, tours around the vineyards can be novel and worthwhile diversions. Most offer free sampling. Bodegas can be visited year-round, but the best time is during the grape harvest from late February until early April.
The countryside around Ica is also scattered with family-owned artisanal bodegas, with many dotted around San Juan de Bautista about a 7km taxi (S12 one way) or colectivo (S1.50) ride from Ica’s center. Colectivos leave from the corner of Independencia and Callao.
Most budget travelers head for Huacachina, 4km west of the city, but Ica has several good midrange and high-end options. Beware that hotels fill up and double or triple their prices during the many festivals.
Several shops in the streets east of the plaza sell tejas (caramel-wrapped sweets flavored with fruits, nuts etc).
Drinking & Nightlife
There’s not much happening in Ica outside of fiesta times, though if its gringo-dominated nightlife you’re after, Huacachina calls like a desert siren. On Ica’s Plaza de Armas, you’ll find several wine and pisco tasting rooms to pop into for a quick tipple. South of the plaza along Lima, local bars and clubs advertise live music, DJs and dancing, but they’re pretty rough. The craziest late-night disco, called The Who, is situated 3km southwest of the plaza; it’s a S6 taxi ride.