I feel like Peru is always rubbing it in, reminding us constantly of how beautiful it is and how much it has to offer. We already talked about Machu Picchu a little while back, touched on Humantay Lake, Rainbow Mountain and we even disclosed the well hidden location of Aguas Turquesas del Rio Millpu. Now, however, we have a new destination for you all to read about and guess what… it isn’t located in the Andes Mountains. That’s right, there is something to see in Peru that is very close to sea level!
I’ll be honest with you, when I think of deserts I think of Africa. It’s the Sahara, the camels, and a faint, screaming voice saying, ‘Bring me the lamp!’, that give me those desert vibes. This certainly is due, in part, to the movies and shows I would see as a kid but also the geography we were taught in school. Long before I even knew about Peru and South America I had learned that northern Africa was where the desert was. Not surprisingly at all, however, there are deserts all over the world and they are all filled with sweeping, shifting sand dunes and some of the most beautiful displays of lines and shadows that I have ever seen in my entire life. Huacachina, a small desert oasis (oh yes, a real oasis) in Peru, quickly became one of our most favorite stops during the time that we spent in South America.
Your arrival here is going to surprise you because it isn’t difficult at all to dip your toes into the rolling sands and the travel to arrive here is quite simple. You have two major departure ports in theory: Cusco and Lima. From either city you are able to fly to a small town called Ica, just a small taxi ride away from the oasis. If flying is out of your budget, no worries, there are buses that regularly depart from both cities and both will bring you direct to Ica. Your chosen route all depends on your travel budget and how much time you have at your disposal. We have never flown in (been there twice) but we can tell you that the bus rides are not bad at all - just bring snacks.
Lodging in Huacahina is limited. You will be able to find almost everything on your standard booking sites and there are plenty of hostels, private rooms and hotel options to choose from. We stayed in a hostel while we were there which was quite unpleasant due to boozy backpackers rummaging around in the middle of the night but that was what we chose to do so that was our fault. If you are partying and drinking then the hostels are a good choice because you will meet a lot of people and people coming to bed late won’t bother you. Huacachina has a great night life, but we were there for work and we immediately regretted booking the hostel - we know better but due to this trip being last minute we couldn’t find a private room at a decent rate.
Alright… now you know how to get there and how to find a place to stay so let’s get down to all the reasons why you should visit. Obviously seeing a desert and being in an oasis is the number one reason to go here, but there is so much more to do than just stand there and exist. Huacachina boasts some serious activity options and there are tour companies all over just waiting to get you into one of the dune buggies for an epic desert drive. The ability and freedom to explore here is arguably what drew us in initially, but it is certainly the reason why we kept extending our stay.
The dune tours are definitely worth it. They can bring you far out into the desert and they run up and down the dune faces, creating an almost rollercoaster like experience, and they even do sunset tours. You can book them privately or you can share them with other travelers to drop the cost down. We did the private option because we were taking photos for a tourism company and we absolutely loved it. The ride was so much fun and it made for some really incredible drone photos and videos. We have seen some seriously beautiful sunsets in our lives and the sunset we saw here definitely ranks in our top five. The golden, pink light is so unreal when paired with the golden sand and you see the shadows shifting on the dunes - it is almost like the landscape comes alive.
We spent day after day just hiking the dunes on our own… talk about a booty burn! Walking uphill in sand for an entire day really gives you a good workout. We explored so many different areas that the buggies don’t drive through and we had the best time doing so. If you are feeling really athletic you can even try out sand boarding. You can rent the boots and the boards from hostels or tourism companies, but a lot of times the dune buggy tours have it included in their rate. Just remember the way back if you decide to wander out on your own. Huacachina is hot during the day but it can get quite cold at night. Oh… pack water. You will need it!
Til next time…