We originally didn’t plan on going to Huacachina, but in true Detour fashion we met a couple of awesome travellers who convinced us it was a place we shouldn’t miss. Huacachina is a real desert oasis just outside of the farming city of Ica. Its green lagoon is ringed by palm trees and colonial style hotels. Cutting it off from the rest of the world are towering sand dunes, giving Huacachina the look of a watering hole somewhere in the Sahara. After seeing a picture of its postcard perfect setting we had to check it out for ourselves.
The lagoon is minutes outside of Ica but feels a world away. However, the inspirational feeling of isolation comes at a price. Aside from desert oasis, Huacachina can also be described as a tourist trap. The sole industry is tourism and the town is set up to maximize on those dollars. Hostels and hotel prices are higher than elsewhere, and with no markets and only a few restaurants, the price of a meal is higher too. But don’t be scared away by the cost, it’s worth it for a night or two, and make sure to check out the best thing to do in Huacachina for free!
By far the most popular activity in town is going on a dune buggy tour through the desert. Included are stops on some massive dunes where you stand or lie down on an old snowboard and fly down the sand. Ask around for prices as there’s many companies offering basically the same thing, also you might get a discount through your hostel. Some of the drivers are absolute maniacs so ask for recommendations if you’re nervous about safety. We booked ours through Sunset Hostel and were really happy with the experience.
Our tour started out by getting strapped into the buggy while the driver fired up it’s rumbling engine. He put the pedal to the metal and in seconds we were blasting over the dunes screaming our faces off. After a roller coaster ride we stopped at the top of a medium-sized dune and gave sandboarding a try. We received about 5 seconds of instructions before laying down face first on the board and were turned into human sand-rockets. Luckily we didn’t receive the mouthful of sand we expected and thanks to our tobogganing skills from many winters in Canada, we made it to the bottom without being flung off the board.
After practicing on the “little” dune, we drove over to a monstrous two-tiered one where we would get some real speed. The bottoms of our boards were waxed up to make them extra slick and we were pushed over the edge without being able to see the bottom. Speeding down the first half of the dune we raced towards an edge where the hill drops even steeper. Catching some air and landing with a thud in the powdery sand, we were just able to hold on and make it to the bottom. Covered in sand and with our hearts racing, we had to try it again.
Finished with the sand boarding, we climbed back in the buggy and drove top-speed over some of the craziest dunes yet. We ended on a peak where we sat in the sand over looking the Huacachina to watch the sun set. In all the tour lasted about two hours and cost 35 Soles. We didn’t escape without a few new bruises but had an absolute blast and would recommend coming to Huacachina for a night just to experience the dune/sunset/sand-boarding tour!
Huacachina Traveller Information
Getting To/From/Around: Make your way to Ica which is a pretty big city with lots of bus connections. From your bus terminal, hail a taxi to take you to Huacachina. We paid 7 Soles on the way there and only 5 on the way out so barter barter barter. Huacachina is small enough to walk around in 20 minutes or less. No need for transportation unless going to Ica or continuing on to another city.
Accommodation: We were very happy with the service, our room and the tour through Sunset Hostel, but there are numerous hotels/hostels to choose from. There are a few high end backpacker hostels around that create an atmosphere of being away from it all. If you’re looking for a good social atmosphere they would probably be best.
Eating and Drinking: The food and drinks are expensive in Huacachina. Continental breakfast for 12 Soles, set lunch for 12-18 Soles and set dinner for 15+ Soles are typical prices. A-la-carte options are easily 30 Soles. There are a couple of places with cheaper menus but the food is also cheaper and not very good. If you can, bring a few supplies from Ica to help save money. Drinking isn’t cheap either, but most places offer happy hour.