Towering sand dunes, a lively village and mesmerizing sunsets are part of the charm of the Huacachina desert oasis, which is perfect for travellers who love unique experiences and off-the-beaten-path hidden gems.
The other-worldly Huacachina dunes are located 10 minutes down a dusty, windy road from the city of Ica in southwestern Peru. A popular stopover en route to the Nazca lines, it’s also a favourite spot for backpackers and those wanting a city escape from Lima, thanks to it’s blazing hot weather.
Outdoor adventures like thrilling dune buggy rides and sandboarding are a highlight, along with stomping grapes in a vineyard and day trips to see the likes of sea lions and Humboldt penguins. Here’s what to do in Huacachina, Peru.
The Huacachina lagoon
The crown jewel is the Huacachina lagoon, which is surrounded by a palm-fringed boardwalk and the village. Local legend has it that the water has healing powers…but let’s just say you probably wouldn’t want to find out, as the green water isn’t terribly inviting. However you can rent a pedalo or boat to cruise around it, or make the effort to clamour up the dunes to get a birds-eye view of it.
There are dozens of small guest houses, bars, restaurants and tour operators in the Huacachina village, making it easy to unwind and enjoy a weekend getaway. Many of the hotels have swimming pools surrounded by lounge chairs, which are perfect for soaking up the sun before heading out for some high-octane fun in the sand dunes.
Huacachina sand dunes and buggy tours
A Huacachina dune buggy ride is one of the most fun things to do, giving you amazing views of the surrounding deserts while enjoying an exhilarating adventure that feels like a roller coaster.
The buggies usually hold between four and 12 people, and after everyone’s settled in (with seatbelts FIRMLY FASTENED) it’s time to head to the hills. Drivers don’t hold back, speeding straight up the dunes which are several hundred feet high at thrillingly high speeds. You’ll fly up and down the sand, screaming with every turn, especially when you’re about to crest a ridge and zoom straight down the other side.
A two hour tour costs about 50 soles (around $20) plus an entrance fee of 3.70 soles per person, and can be booked at any lodging or travel agency in Huacachina or Ica. Be sure to wear sunglasses to keep as much of the sand out of your eyes as possible (a tough task) as well as long clothing and a buff. Also choose shoes over sandals, as it’s very easy for them to slip off and get lost.
WATCH: Speeding through the sand dunes on a dune buggy
Despite the wild ride, you’ll have time to catch your breath during the photo stops. Most tours also include a chance to go sandboarding.
What’s sandboarding, you ask? Picture snowboarding, but on the much less forgiving sand. Tour companies supply the boards, and after a quick tutorial from your driver you can either go bodyboarding by lying face-down on the board, or attempt to do it standing up.
Either way, prepare to get a face full of sand if you have a rough landing! If you end up loving the experience, there are places to rent a board and tackle the hills on your own…of course, keep in mind you’ll have to hike back up each time.
It’s highly recommended to book a dune buggy tour that starts around 4 p.m., so you can cap off the day by watching the sunset from on top of the Huacachina sand dunes.
More things to do in Huacachina
There are a few fun day trips in the area, including:
- Wine tasting: Head to the vineyards near Ica to learn more about pisco and wine production in the area, and enjoy some tastings. This tour includes visits to a number of wineries, as well a dune buggy ride in Huacachina. Click to book
- Nazca lines: Take this scenic flight over these representations of animals and plants, which have been preserved for nearly 2,000 years. Some designs in the huge labyrinth stretch as long as 500 metres of lines, and are best seen from above. The drive time from Huacachina to Nazca is about 2 1/2 hours. Click to book
- Ballestas Islands: Make the one hour journey toward the coast, to hop on this half-day tour of the beautiful Ballestas Islands and an amazing Inca site. Keep an eye out for sea lions, guaneras birds and adorable Humbolt penguins while exploring sea caves, then head to the Fortress of Tambo Colorado which has stood since the 15th century. Click to book
How to get to Huacachina Peru
Most visitors travel from Lima to Ica by bus, then take a quick taxi ride to Huacachina. Companies like Cruz del Sur offer tickets as low as $6 each way for the five hour journey.
- Lima to Huacachina: 4-5 hour bus ride
- Cusco to Huacachina: 16 hour bus ride (about $50 USD), or 90 minute flight (prices start around $35 USD)
- Ica to Huacachina: The drive only takes about 10 minutes, and a safe, registered taxi from inside the bus station costs about $4 USD per person. Local taxis hired on the street charge around $2 USD per person.
Booking Huacachina tours
From booking a Huacachina day trip from Lima or Paracas to hanging out for a few days of R&R, there are quite a few options for exploring this desert oasis. Some tours also include visits to the nearby Nazca lines, Ica and Ballestas Islands.
Huacachina tours from Lima:
Huacachina tour from Paracas
Where to stay in Huacachina
- El Huacachinero: This is one of the most popular Huacachina hotels, as it’s in the heart of the action and its pool and good restaurant make it quite the party place. Not so great for quality of sleep, but a lot of fun! Click to book
- Villa Jazmin: If the hotels in Huacachina are too loud and you’re looking for peace and quiet, Villa Jazmin is a good pick as it’s tucked away into a residential area of Ica. The eco-hotel has large rooms, fabulous views of the surrounding dunes and a serene pool area. Click to book
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