An oasis in the middle of the desert, you say. Surely it’s a mirage!! Nope! It’s Huacachina. Just 5km from the city of Ica lies a picturesque lagoon surrounded by the biggest sand dunes you might ever see. How could this be possible? The dunes and masses of marine fossils prove that this area once lay underwater. The town was originally built as a resort for the Peruvian higher classes. And what remains now is this serene desert oasis. For a few moments it will play havoc with your mind; palm trees, water and peddle boats in the desert. Locals have taken advantage of this unusual setting in Huacachina and set up hotels, hostels, cafés and restaurants, souvenir stalls and small tour companies around their natural resort.
The Desert Oasis, Huacachina
Getting to Huacachina
The easiest way to get from Lima to Huacachina is with PeruHop. They provide a direct service to the Huacachina Oasis, complete with a hotel/hostel collection service. They also offer discounts on most major hotels and hostels in Huacachina so are worth checking out. Public buses don’t go directly to Huacachina, but rather to Ica. From Ica you need to take a taxi a further 15 – 20 minutes to Huacachina. Expect to pay about 10 – 15 Soles (US$ 3.00 – 4.50). The journey from Lima to Huacachina takes about 4 1/2 – 5 hours. For most of the way you will take the newly built freeway section of the Pan-American Highway, until Chincha where the new road ends, and you follow the old 2 lane road the rest of the way. The journey is comfortable, without any windy mountain road travel.
If you’re up for some thrilling and exhilarating fun that will make you scream like Ned Flanders, however manly you are, a dune buggy tour is a must. You can take a tour for around $15 and can compare operators, itineraries and prices at www.findlocaltrips.com. You can take a tour from your hotel for about S/45 ($15). These tours usually last a couple of hours and include sand boarding. No matter what age you are or how much of an adrenalin junkie you are, you are bound to enjoy every minute of the tour. The rollercoaster feeling of the tour can vary depending on how loco your driver is! All the dune buggy drivers are locals so know these dunes of Huacachina like the back of their hands. They all take different routes through the dunes taking you to some crazy heights and curves to sand board down. Whether you go down on your belly, your knees or expertly on your feet you’re sure to giggle like a schoolgirl with the excitement!!
Driving Towards the Immense Sanddunes in a Sandbuggy
Wear glasses, closed toe shoes, empty your pockets and leave the hats in the buggy, you’ll be surprised what goes missing in the sand. Afterwards, there’s no doubt you’ll be finding sand in every crevice possible. You’ll be finding it for days!! You’ve been warned!! The best time to head up to the dunes for a tour is late afternoon. As you finish your tour the sun will be setting over the sanddunes of Huacachina and you’ll have some of the most amazing photo opportunities.
Stopping for a Photo Amidst the Excitment!
Relaxation in Huacachina
For a more relaxed day in Huacachina spend it hanging out around the lagoon. There are peddle boats that you can rent for an hour to soak up the sun. You’ll see local children splashing about and playing in the water. The water is a bit murky and dirty and not really ideal for swimming, so my advice is don’t go for a dip to cool down. Chill out with a beer or juice in one of the surrounding restaurants. Desert Nights overlooking the lagoon offers gringo meals and good coffee as well as somewhere to lay your head. A five minute walk from the oasis you’ll find the more boisterous Casa de Arena. This hostel offers private rooms and smaller bedroomed dorms for low prices. They offer an all you can eat and drink barbeque most nights for S/30 ($10) and a party atmosphere! For a stay that better suits the setting, stay at El Huacachinero Hotel. There’s no loud music, a great food menu and a pool for relaxing at. If you’ve a little less to spend but you still want to have a relaxing stay, opt for Bananas Adventure Hostel. It has a beautiful garden with hammocks and bean bags for pure relaxation.
Peddle Boats in the Lagoon
Not So Relaxing…..
Surprisingly, in this small desert location there is a nightclub, aptly named Huacafuckinchina. This nightclub is busy most days, but especially Wednesday through to Saturday. It’s known for wild parties to the early hours of the morning. During the day, it tidies itself up and opens as a café. If you hadn’t spent enough time there the night before you can pop in for breakfast, lunch or dinner.
There’s not a whole lot more to do in Huacachina so plan to stay for two to three days maximum. The city of Ica is only a short taxi drive away. It offers a plaza, a museum and most importantly the Pisco industry. You can organize a Pisco tasting tour to family-owned winery. There are many wineries located just outside the town center. Ask your hotel for their recommendation.
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