Huacachina is a cool, little desert oasis just outside of Ica. I’ve never seen an actual oasis before, so despite Huacachina being a tiny town of maybe 100 residents, it still blew my mind. I planned for it to be a quick stop on my tear through southwestern Peru, but it almost managed to drag me for significantly longer than I expected.
What attracts people to Huacachina is none other than the surprisingly scary and strenuous sport of sand boarding. It’s like snowboarding but you have to trudge up sand dunes for several brutal minutes for a few exhilarating seconds… unless you’re like most tourists who underestimate the difficulty of it and end up going down on their butts the entire way. Huacachina is surrounded by huge sand dunes, and even bigger ones are just a heart-pumping dune buggy ride away. Check out my sand boarding and dune buggying video here.
First off, how do you get to Huacachina? Peru’s bus system is probably the most reliable and comfortable in all of South America, so I highly recommend just taking a bus. Find one that is going to Ica, which will be about 4 hours from Lima, an hour from Paracas, or 10-12 hours from Arequipa. Once you get to the bus terminal in Ica, take a taxi or tuk-tuk to the oasis of Huacachina. If you’re lugging around a big backpack, you honestly don’t even need to tell the driver where you’re going. It’s a quick ride and shouldn’t cost more than 10 soles.
Simply popping into Huacachina will attract every tour guide in town, so don’t bother trying to plan anything beforehand. Dune buggies and sand boards are plentiful and easily accessible.
Staying in the actual town by the oasis is pretty cool, but there’s really only one decent hostel in town, which is Banana’s Adventure. It’s quite pricy (because it includes an activity, your choice between dune buggy and sandboarding, a winery trip, or a ticket to their pretty poppin’ barbecue) but worth it for a night or two. It was one of my favorite hostels I stayed at, mostly because I hadn’t had a chance to sit by a pool in weeks at this point. There are other, significantly cheaper accommodations throughout town, but I can’t speak for how nice they are. Besides, most backpackers stay at Banana’s Adventure, so for a solo traveler like me with an insatiable itch for social interaction, that was the most reasonable option.
There really isn’t much else to say about Huacachina. It is a quiet town during the day, and possibly quieter at night. There is a club, Huacafuckingchina, but it is consistently empty and only filled with other tourists and backpackers. The town is only good for about a day or two, unless you move slowly or are taking some time off between any of Peru’s incredible, but tough, treks. It is 100% worth the visit, though, and make sure you catch the sunset from the top of one of the bigger sand dunes. It is beautiful, and seeing how massive the desert is, catching a good view of the town, and sharing a beer with your amigos is well worth the extreme difficulty of hiking up sand.