The best way to escape Ica’s hot desert afternoons is to wander around the cool chambers and vaults, and sample the wines at one of the town’s bodegas or wineries. Many of the region’s best wine and piscos can be sampled from stores in and around the Plaza de Armas in Ica, but if you have the time, it’s well worth visiting the producer haciendas located outside the town centre.
Vista Alegre Daily 9am–4.30pm; 056 222919. This well-known bodega, one of Peru’s best, is based in an old hacienda still chugging happily along in a forgotten world of its own. There’s usually a guide who’ll show you around free of charge, then arrange for a wine- and pisco-tasting session at the shop. You don’t have to buy anything, but you’re expected to tip (around $2–5 a person or small group).
Bodega Tacama Daily 9am–5pm; 056 228395, tacama.com. Bodega Tacama is a large and successful wine producer located about 3km from the centre of Ica. The vineyards here are still irrigated by the Achirana Canal, which was built by the Inca Pachacutec (or his brother Capac Yupanqui) as a gift to Princess Tate, daughter of a local chieftain. Apparently it took 40,000 men just ten days to complete this astonishing canal, which brings cold, pure water down 4000m from the Andes to transform what was once an arid desert into a startlingly fertile oasis. Clearly a romantic at heart, Pachacutec named it Achirana – “that which flows cleanly towards that which is beautiful”. Guided tours and tastings are available.
Bodega Ocucaje Mon–Fri 9am–noon & 2–5pm, Sat 9am–noon; 056 408011. About 35km further south of Ica, the oasis of Bodega Ocucaje is one of Peru’s finest vineyards. You can stay here at the Hotel Ocucaje and explore the surrounding desert, particularly the Cerro Blanco site where whalebone remains have been found.