If you are thinking that Peru has only mountains, green valleys, and no sand dunes, then you need to visit Huacachina. We were surprised to discover Huacachina oasis and we are glad that we included it in our 4 weeks Peru Itinerary.
By now, Instagram has pushed Huacahina into the spot light and more and more tourists are coming here to see this mysterious oasis.
Well, not so mysterious anymore, as it became a popular tourist’s hot spot for locals and international travelers. However, it is still a unique place and we recommend you to visit it.
Besides, how many times a lifetime can you see an oasis like this one?
After coming down from chilly Cusco, we were looking forward to some sun and chill out at the only desert oasis in South America.
The sand dunes of Huacachina or in Spanish: Las Dunas de la Huacachina are located in the southern part of Peru. Huacachina oasis is not a natural wonder as many thinks, but in fact, Hucachina is man-made and was created by the underground current of water, which caused the growth of plants and palm trees.
Here, you can access one of the biggest sand dunes in South America, and that is why we put Huacachina into our list of the most beautiful places in South America.
Huacachina is a very small place and not many people live here. Most of the people who work in hotels and restaurants or tours come every day from Ica.
We were bit shocked on our first day as we were expecting some secluded oasis, but Huachina is far from that. However, it is still worthy to come here, I just do not want your expectations to be crushed.
THE LEGEND OF HUACACHINA
So what or who is Huacachina and where does the name come from?
The old Inca legend says that the oasis was created from the tears shed by a girl from a small town called Tacara. She mourned the death of her loved one. She cried for days and nights and her tears created a little lagoon.
One night, she was standing next to the lagoon, and a warrior came and saw her. She decided to hide inside the water. And after a few hours, she became a mermaid. Her name was Huacachina. And if you come to Huacachina during Full Moon, legend says, Huacachina is still crying next to the lagoon.
HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED IN HUACACHINA?
If you have only a few days in Peru and would like to visit Huacachina you can see it easily in one day. However, we decided to stay for two nights as I had my birthday and we didn’t want to spend it traveling on the bus somewhere.
We also needed to get some rest after our Inca jungle trail and Rainbow Mountain hike. If you do not have a lot of time to spare, definitely come here for one day or at least one night.
HOW TO GET TO HUACACHINA?
Huacachina oasis is located near a small town called Ica. Once you get to Ica you need to get a taxi or tuk-tuk. The ride is about 15 minutes and you can get a taxi easily near the bus station in Ica. A taxi costs around 8 Soles.
We got to Ica from Arequipa. If you are coming from Cusco, make sure to stop here as it is a very lovely town.
HOW TO GET TO HUACACHINA FROM LIMA
If you are staying in Lima and would like to visit Huacahicna on a day trip, there are many full-day tours. This tour will also stop at the beautiful beach town of Paracas and a speedboat will take you to the Ballestas Islands. It also includes sandboarding and a ride in a sand buggy.
If you do not like to take any tours, you can travel on a bus from Lima to Ica. The bus ride takes around 5 hours.
THINGS TO DO IN HUACHACHINA
If you are visiting Peru, make sure to read our blog on BEST PLACES TO SEE IN PERU.
HUACACHINA SAND DUNES IN PERU
Once you get to Huacachina sand dunes in Peru, you need to climb up to the top. It gets really windy out there, so it is quite impossible to stay for long without sand flying into your face.
Here you will get a wonderful view on the Huacachina oasis and incredible sand dunes. We did some fun shots with the iconic sand dunes in the background. It is definitely hard to imagine that this is Peru.
It took us around 45 minutes to climb up here. It can be tricky to walk on the sand, and it is definitely exhausting, especially when you are climbing during a hot day. But it is definitely worth it.
We know that many people are taking photos with the Huacachina laguna in the background, but honestly, we were more excited about this small oasis located on the right side of Huacachina lagoon.
We loved this location so much and spent here some time running around and taking photos. It seems that the water from the Huacachina laguna got here and created another really small secluded oasis.
One of our favorite things to do in Desierto de Huacachina was watching the sunset. If you would like to go a view sunset from the top of the dunes, make sure you start to climb at least 45 minutes before sunset.
It doesn’t seem like a long walk, but it is steep and walking on sand is harder than it seems. We started a bit too late, and we almost missed the sunset.
WALK AROUND LAGUNA DE HUACACHINA
It is a very small place and you can easily walk around Laguna de Huacachina in 30 minutes (if you go super slow). However, you can take some nice shots with Huacahina’s lagoon and its lovely reflection.
SAND BUGGY TOUR
One of the most popular things to do in Huacachina is definitely a sand buggy tour. Every hotel in Huacachina is able to organize a tour for you and many travelers exploring Peru, would love to go for a ride among the giant dunes. One of the most popular sand buggy tours is a sunset tour.
Your adrenaline will go high as it is a bumpy ride, with fast turns and going down the dunes feeling like a rollercoaster (that is why this tour is not advisable for pregnant women).
However, you can go for a tour any time from sunrise till sunset. For 1 hour of bugging around, you should pay 20-30 Soles (US$7-10).
We would definitely recommend you do either an early morning tour or sunset tour as the sand during the day gets really hot. If you decide to go, definitely go for 2 hours, so you have enough time to learn sandboarding.
SEE MORE: DISCOVER CHAN CHAN, INCREDIBLE ARCHEOLOGICAL SITE IN THE NORTHERN PERU
The sand buggy tour also includes sandboarding too.
If you never stood on a “sandboard,” you do not need to worry. Your guide will quickly explain to you how to sandboard.
Spoiler: You might fall, but hey, it’s part of the experience.
But it basically goes like this: head up, arms tucked in, lay flat on your belly. Guides will pick up steep and long dunes, and I am totally scared of things like that. So I passed on that experience.
However, you do not need to go on a buggy tour to try sandboarding. You can rent a sandboard (and even skis) from any hotel in Huacachina. But I would definitely do not go super far away as you do not want to get lost.
EXTRA TIP: If you would like to do sandboarding, I wouldn’t recommend wearing your best clothes. Sand will get everywhere, and the chances that you will get dirty is high. Also, flip flops are not a super great idea neither, as you might lose them in a few seconds. So wear closed shoes and clothes which you do not care about so much.
Accept of sandboarding you can also go sand skiing in Huacachina desert (Desierto de Huacachina). This is the first time I have seen someone skiing on sand. So if you are into trying something new, then this one is for you.
CHILL AT YOUR HOTEL
If you are staying overnight and do not feel like doing any of the mentioned activities, no problem. You can also chill at your hotel or at least have an afternoon swim with some cocktails.
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DAY TRIPS FROM HUACACHINA
If you come to this part of Peru you don’t necessarily expect to find a winery. Surprise!
Just 30 mins from Huacachina oasis you can visit one of the oldest vineyards in South America. Here you can taste a variety of wines and also Pisco liquors. Pisco is a local drink made of grapes and typical for Peru.
If you wonder how can Peruvians grow 23 types of grapes here in the desert, it is due to the water coming from the Andes mountains through an irrigation canal making the soil fertile.
There is also a wonderful day tour from Lima, which will take you to Huacachina, and includes a wine tasting, snowboarding and desert sunset.
If you are looking for another awesome day trip from Huacachina, then you need to check out Ballestas Islands. Ballestas Islands are also known as Peruvian’s Galapagos as you can spot unique marine life such as penguins.
If you are heading to Ecuador, read more on Isla de la Plata: the poor mans’ Galapagos.
VISIT THE NAZCA LINES
If you are already down there, you need to visit Nazca Lines. Nazca Lines are one of the most popular day tours from Huacachina. Just 2 hours south of Huacachina you will find some mysterious and strange drawings that were created 500 BC.
You can either visit Nazca lines on a day tour from Huachahina or go there on your own. If you would like to see Nazca lines you need to fly over them. If you are not sure which tour to take and how to get to Nazca, read the full guide here.
READ MORE: How to book a reliable FLIGHT OVER NAZCA LINES
CHECK OUT THIS TOUR from Lima: Ballestas, Nazca Lines, & Huacachina Oasis DAY TRIP
WHERE TO EAT IN HUACACHINA
Surprisingly, there are a few restaurants in the Huacachina oasis.
We really loved a nice place called Frutika, which is a perfect spot for breakfast. They have many tasty fruit bowls. Also sandwiches and many fresh fruit juices.
WILD OLIVE: We went here for my birthday dinner and had some delicious lasagne and pasta. Definitely a charming place to hang out with a lovely view of Laguna de Huacachina. And if you had enough of quinoa and beans, and craving for some pizza, then come here for sure.
READ MORE: HOW TO VISIT SALINERAS DE MARAS NEAR CUSCO
HOW TO GET AROUND HUACHACHINA?
Huachachina is a very small place and you can literally walk everywhere. But if you would like to visit places around or go to Ica, then there are few taxis and small tuk-tuks.
WHAT TO PACK FOR HUACACHINA?
LONG SLEEVES: Don’t forget that you are coming to the desert, and temperatures drop at night, especially during winter times. It’s warm during the day, but it’s awesome to have a jumper and long pants with you.
SUN CREAM: The sun is very strong, so having a proper sun lotion is a must. We love to use Raw Elements sun lotions that are chemical-free ( use Gigi10 for 10% off on the entire order).
ZIP LOCK PLASTIC BAG: or anything which will keep your camera or phone safe. The sand is a big enemy for photography gear, especially when it gets windy, the sand will fly around. So make sure you protect it. If you do sandboarding, I wouldn’t use an unprotected GoPro, as you might fall and scratch your camera and sand will get everywhere. If you are curious about what photography gear we use, then head to the blog here.
HAT & SUNGLASSES: There is not much shade in the sand dunes so make sure to protect yourself from getting heatstroke.
SWIMWEAR: Most of the hotels have a swimming pool, so don’t forget to pack your swimwear.
WATER: Whether you are coming to Huacachina on a day trip or staying overnight, make sure to bring enough water with you. We bought a couple of liters of water and snacks in Ica as the Huacachina store is a bit overpriced.
The best time to visit the Oasis of Huacachina is from December and March where the weather is hot with an average temperature of 23 degrees, up to 30 degrees (Celsius).
From May until November the temperatures will drop. However, May is still a great month to visit as it’s still warm and you might avoid hurds of tourists. The coldest month in Huacachina in July as it’s winter time in Peru.
There are several hotels in the Huachiachina oasis. However, hotels are slightly overpriced comparing it to other towns in Peru. Also, if you have the possibility to book in advance, do that. After all, it’s a popular place.
We stayed 3 nights in Rochabus bungalows, and we had our own room with a private bathroom. The hotel had lovely surroundings and a swimming pool.
CHECK ALL HOTELS IN HUACHACHINA HERE
OUR OTHER FAVORITE PICKS:
Huacachina Desert House: outdoor swimming pool, bar, and fitness center. All rooms have a kitchenette, a private bathroom, and free breakfast.
Desert Nights Ecocamp: affordable rooms, restaurant, a shared kitchen, bar, garden, year-round outdoor pool and terrace, breakfast included.
Hostal Huacachina Sunset: Affordable rooms with swimming pool and a lovely view on sand dunes.
If you are looking for a party hostel, definitely check out Wild Rover. I think the name of the hostel says it all. Not a place for us, but if you are into partying, then you will love it there.
If you missed out on hotels in Huacachina, you can definitely stay in nearby Ica. Check for hotels in Ica here.
IS VISITING HUACACHINA WORTH IT?
Look, we don’t want you to expect some secluded beautiful oasis, but we have to say that it is an impressive place, and we are not regretting coming here. I wouldn’t say that I would come back again, but it is definitely worth visiting.
That’s all from us, we hope that you are going to have a great time in Huacachina and in Peru in general. We are off visiting Nazca Lines and leaving to explore another country on our list: Bolivia.
Have you ever visited an Oasis? Let us know in the comments where and how did you like it.
If you are planning to visit the Huacachina oasis in Peru, don’t forget to pit our travel guide to read it later.
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