You’d be hard-pressed to find a small town with a more interesting setting than Huacachina, Peru. Sitting quietly below huge sand dunes, this tiny desert oasis a great place to relax and, if you’re feeling adventurous, do some sand boarding and tear around on a dune buggy.
“Let me know if you want the crazy driver”, our Peru Hop guide said with a smile. We did. Eight of us crammed into the dune buggy, made sure to fasten our seatbelts and proceeded to scream like girls (well, the girls screamed like girls, I kept my cool). It was a fun ride; the “crazy driver” sped up and down and around the dunes until we arrived at a viewpoint. We saw a sea of sand dunes lapping on the shores of Ica, a city of around 250,000 people.
Having never snowboarded, surfed or skateboarded, I was a little apprehensive about this activity. My lack of board balancing experience wouldn’t be a problem though, as the first dune was too steep to stand up on anyway. Instead we lay flat and sped down the dune face first. It was scary to start with but so much fun. The second dune was a little less steep and the third was pretty tiny, which gave me the confidence to stand up on the board. I didn’t get too far and fell over plenty of times but the soft sand saved me from injury. We did the three dunes over again then headed back to Huacachina on another crazy dune buggy ride.
A desert sunset
After getting shaken around in the dune buggy and with pockets full of sand from falling off my board, we had a more sedate time watching the sun set over the rolling sand dunes. There’s something special about watching a sunset in the desert. As the sky turned pink we got back into the buggy for another crazy ride back to Huacachina.
You don’t need long to explore this tiny town, it’s basically just a collection of hostels, restaurants and tour companies surrounding a small, palm tree lined oasis lake. There are peddle boats to rent, but most people just find some shade and relax on the “beach”. There are some nice bars and restaurants on the lake side walkway – one we ate at was called Huacafuckingchina, which had very enthusiastic and friendly waiters, one of which insisted on a 3 way selfie. Prices in Huacachina are a bit higher than in the other parts of Peru that we visited, but we managed to find a decent room for 60 soles and some reasonably priced food.
Walking in the desert
We underestimated just how hot desert sand can be. We went for a walk up the dunes outside of town but had to turn back because our feet were getting burnt. We went back to the hostel and changed out of our jandals and into our shoes. We eventually made it to the top of one of the smaller dunes and got a nice view over Huacachina as well as another small oasis. Climbing those dunes is hard work. I wanted to go higher to get a better photo but the heat beat me — go out early if you plan on walking in the desert.
Getting to Huacachina
We explored southern Peru with Peru Hop and this is one of the most popular spots on the tourist trail from Lima to Cusco. It’s a short drive from Paracas where you can take a boat tour to a place that has been dubbed “the poor man’s Galapagos¨. After spending a night in Huacachina we moved on to Arequipa — but first we stopped off at a pisco vineyard and also at a viewing tower where we saw a couple of the world famous Nasca lines. If you’re travelling around Peru and you want to maximise your time without joining an organised tour, check out Peru Hop.
FURTHER READING: Check out this post about a sightseeing flight over the Nazca Lines
Sunset over the Nasca Lines
Have you seen anywhere like Huacachina? Let me know!
Disclaimer: I worked with Peru Hop during my trip through southern Peru. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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Saturday 31st of October 2015
Ahh, Huacachina. Thanks for sending back down memory lane. It's definitely tourist-centric, but very beautiful. I remember sunbathing by the hostel pool after the dune buggy ride and sandboarding (awesome sauce).
Make sure to visit the Santa Catalina convent in Arequipa. My friend recommended it to me, and I spent 4 hours just taking photos and enjoying the view. Most people walk in and out after 20 minutes. Stay and walk around and get lost.
Colca Canyon is the most amazing place I've ever visited, and I highly recommend it to anyone. If you've been backcountry hiking a few times, you should be fine as there are hostels at the bottom and you can get a paper map from a travel agent easily for free.
So much to see and eat. Have fun!
Saturday 7th of November 2015
We went to the Santa Catalina monastery, such a cool place! I was kinda complaining about how expensive it was but I had no idea how good it would be (I even wrote a whole post on it, coming soon). We also did the Colca Canyon hike; it was really nice!