Remember that bit in Aladdin where the genie gets him out of the cave and catapults him into the lush greens of a desert oasis? That’s pretty much what this little oasis in the Peruvian desert is offering. Just a quick (and cheap) taxi ride outside of Ica, you drive down a dirt road, over a little dune, and straight into Huacachina. We’d decided to make a quick stop here, on account of the pictures we’d seen of the dunes. We hadn’t anticipated loving the calm of it so much that we would end up extending our stay.
The little oasis village only has a few streets, with a permanent population of about 100. Legend holds that the Huacachina lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess removed her clothes to bathe, but looking into a mirror, she saw a male hunter approaching her from behind. Startled at the intrusion, she fled the area leaving behind her mirror which turned into a lake.
We stayed at Banana’s adventure hostel, boasting their own pool, decent priced nightly BBQ and daily sand dune buggy trips. Book a private room (go for the superior double one). We moved into it on our last night and couldn’t believe the extras (and size) you got for an extra measly couple of pounds. In the evening, we sat with the owner, drinking beers and chit chatting about Peru.
Things to do
There are two options to view the seemingly never ending sand dunes; the first being to take one of the buggy tours (complete with sand boarding boards). Going out just before sunset, they’re brilliant for getting further into the middle of nowhere for serene Peru desert shots (and for rocketing down the dunes, holding onto your board for dear life).
The second? Fall right onto the streets and climb the steep slopes of the dunes surrounding the oasis on foot. Give yourself a good hour, I watched a lot of people struggle. The sand moving underfoot makes for a more challenging climb (but the view from the top are more than worth it.
If you’re lucky, you’ll come across local teens (kitted out in full board shorts and board boots) climbing the dunes to show off their local sand boarding skills to the tourists. If you’re extra lucky, you’ll climb at the same time as them (just before sunset), and be able to follow their footsteps. The trodden down sand from their boots is firmer (and easier) to navigate.
The sunsets were some of the most dramatic I’ve seen, bouncing off the village and the water to your left, and over miles of untouched desert to your right.
Getting to Ica from Lima couldn’t be easier. Take yourself to the public bus depot and get on one of the many daily Cruz del Sur coaches straight to Ica. The journey will take around 5 hours, but coaches are big, comfy, and recline far enough to get a good morning sleep. From Ica’s small bus station, we took a taxi to Huacachina.