Sandboarding down high desert dunes, tearing through the sand in a buggy and taking the most stunning photos at sunset in the desert. It’s all possible in Huacachina, Peru. A backpackers hub filled with hotels, hundreds of buggies and even more tourists. From Paracas we take the bus to be on a board that same afternoon. What to do in Huacachina, what sandboarding actually looks like and why this oasis is not as idyllic as it looks: read about it in the third part of our tour of Peru!
Huacachina: an oasis in the desert of Peru
Near the busy town of Ica is the popular Huacachina. In the middle of the desert. Huacachina is built around an oasis and about 100 people live there. In addition, tens of thousands of tourists travel to this place every year. The sand dunes in the desert around the village are up to 100 meters high and very beautiful. Especially at sunset. The oasis is a natural source of water created from an aquifer beneath the sand. Since the year 2000, the supply of this water has been threatened. Therefore, to keep Huacachina as a tourist destination, water has been pumped into the lake since 2015. On the lake you can ride a pedal boat, among other things.
What to do in Huacachina Peru?
There are two immensely popular activities that all tourists want: sandboarding in the desert and buggy driving. In addition, you can enjoy amazing sunsets and take the coolest photos.
A buggy tour
I couldn’t imagine much of a buggy tour, but it turned out to be very fun. Before you go sandboarding, of course, you have to get to where you are going to do it, and that is done in a buggy. The cars are specifically for stunts in the sand, and it’s pretty intense. You are well strapped in your seatbelts as the guide goes up and down dunes at breakneck speed and performs the craziest antics. You are completely shaken up and a cloth for your mouth to prevent you from eating sand is not a luxury. It was very exciting and cool to experience!
Sandboarding in the desert of Peru
Every tourist in Huacachina wants only one thing: sandboarding in the desert. We also thought this was pretty cool, and I myself was especially curious about what this would be like.
Not every dune is the same
There are many dunes from which you can sandboard, but apparently not every descent is as nice to make. There are a few popular spots where lots of buggies gather for people to sandboard, but our guide took us to another dune where no one else was. According to him, the sand there was better and also more fun because there were no hordes of tourists.
Vertigo in the desert
We went to two dunes: first a small one to practice and then a very high one for the real thing. And then something happened that I had completely ignored: fear of heights. Because say it yourself: who is afraid of heights in the desert? Now I know I have a terrible fear of heights, but this was the last place I would have expected not to dare go down. At the very last, I did manage to sandboard down the small dune, but the big dune I, along with another person who also didn’t dare, finely held off. So the fact that I am so cool with my board in the photo was not so cool at all in reality 😉
Sandboarding in Huacachina
How does that work, sandboarding? It’s actually very simple: you get a simple version of a snowboard, you have to lie down on it with your belly and hold on tight, shoes a little bit in the sand and go. At breakneck speed, you then slide down the dune. Above all, keep your mouth tightly shut or even better: buy a cloth for your head in advance in the village. Despite the fear of heights, a fun experience!
Taking photos during the beautiful desert sunset
I love sunsets anyway, but watching the sun go down in the desert is absolutely fantastic. The guide knew exactly the best spots to admire the sunset. Not only that, he turned out to be very experienced at taking the most insane photos. He asked for our phones and gave instructions for what to do. Meanwhile, we had no idea what would roll out of the camera, so we obediently did as we were told. When we saw the photos, however, we almost fell off the dune in amazement: WOW! Really impressively cool photos. So the whole group was totally lyrical so at the end of the trip, because yes those photos along with the experience are still the most beautiful souvenir to take home.
Idyllic or tourist fest?
When I started reading up on other blogs beforehand, I had gotten all excited about the supposedly idyllic oasis in the middle of the desert. But once there, I found little idyllic about it. I felt like there were literally thousands of tourists. Huacachina exists only for tourists and you notice it everywhere. Doesn’t mean it’s not fun there, but be prepared. For us, those few hours were more than enough, but if you do like partying with other backpackers, this is an ideal destination. A day at the pool is also fine here.
How to get to Huacachina?
In Huacachina, you get to the city of Ica by bus or cab. From Ica to Huacachina takes about 15 minutes, so it is very close. You can also get to Ica easily by bus from Arequipa, Nazca, Paracas or Lima, among others. We traveled with bus company Cruz del Sur.
Where do you arrange sandboarding and buggy riding?
Huacachina is literally all about tourism, so you can arrange tours for sandboarding and buggy rides anywhere. By the way, these two activities go together. There is an organization on every street corner, so take a moment to see which tour appeals best to you.
Hotels and hostels in Huacachina
Although we did not stay overnight in Huacachina, of course I can say something about it. Huacachina has something for everyone: typical backpacker hostels with dorms and more expensive hotels with pools. Finding a hotel in the village is not difficult: after all, there is not much more than hotels. Beforehand I had done some research and if we would stay overnight I had gone to Desert Nights Ecocamp. For an overview of all hotels and hostels in Huacachina, see the map (zoom in on Huacachina):
Further travel through Peru
From Ica you can easily go anywhere. We went by night bus (Cruz del Sur) to Arequipa late at night, but you can also get to Paracas or Lima very easily. Many travelers also go to Nazca first before Arequipa. Everything is perfectly arranged and coordinated for tourists, so even if you do not prepare for a second it is easy to do.
How beautiful the desert is! Would you like to sandboard?
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