You know, one thing I never really imagined was Peru having a desert. I mean, before going to Peru the first thoughts that would cross my mind at the mention of Peru is mountains and lush farmland. While Peru does have an abundance of both, they also have a vast expanse of desert. In fact, Peru actually has two deserts; the Sechura in the North and the Atacama in the south. The Sechura Desert extends from Northern Peru south to the city of Nazca (according to the National Geographic) and from there the Atacama desert extends south in to Chile.
Starting my Peruvian journey in Lima I headed on the typical gringo trail south towards Nazca. When researching for this trip I ended up finding out about the city of Ica and it’s nearby oasis of Huacachina. The pictures looked amazing and I had never seen such a thing in all my travels so I just had to make a stop here!
I’ll start by saying that Ica isn’t anything special in my books. Just a big, hectic city with lots of people, crowds and traffic but not a whole lot to see or do here. It’s a rather dirty city as well. I figured I wouldn’t spend any more time here than needed so I took a 6:30AM Cruz Del Sur bus from Lima to Ica arriving in Ica at about 11:00AM. An awesome thing about Peru too is that this 4.5 hour bus ride cost a mere $6 USD. What a deal!
From Ica I caught an auto-rickshaw (tuk-tuk) to Huacachina for a mere $2. There is a single road out in to the desert from Ica and the entire ride took a mere 10 minutes. Driving over some huge sand dunes and looking down to the oasis below was something out of a dream. it was incredible and unbelievable. My first thought was “how does this happen?”. If you look at the pictures i’m sure you’ll think the same. Water and vegetation in the middle of the desert in just this one place! it’s so surreal!
Like Ica, there isn’t a whole lot to do in Huacachina either? I spent the afternoon there and stayed the night at the Desert Nights hostel in Huacachina. This is one (if not the) most popular place in this little oasis. A bed in an 8-bed shared dorm was a little expensive (by Peruvian standards) at about $11 USD/night. It was a nice place though with good wifi, a good restaurant/bar (albeit prices are expensive for food by Peruvian standards too) but all-in-all, it was a great place to spend a night. The front of the hostel overlooked the oasis lagoon and the sand dunes towering behind it.
Huacachina is a relaxed little place and a nice escape from the hustle and bustle of Lima or Ica. Like I said there isn’t a whole lot to do. Primarily is sand boarding and dune buggy rides around the desert. I rented a sand board from the hostel for a few hours for 5 SOL and went up on the surrounding dunes. It’s hard work climbing these dunes and was damn hot out with temperatures over 30 degrees. I did a couple of rides down the dunes before calling it quits and heading back to the hostel.
Shortly after, I booked one of the evening dune buggy tours. These are two-hour rides up and down the dunes out in the desert away from the oasis. The adventure will set you back about 50 SOL but let me say it is well worth. Also, definitely do an evening sunset ride as you get to watch the sun setting over the desert. It’s an unreal sight! The colors of the sunset mixed with those of the desert is so cool!
Also included in the tour is sandboarding with time for four trips down some of the biggest dunes the desert has to offer! The great thing about doing the sandboarding with the tour is the buggy drives you to the top of the dune, you ride down and then the driver brings the buggy down to you to pick you up! Soooo much easier than walking up dunes yourself.
All-in-all, the ride was a great deal for only $15 USD and i’d recommend it (along with a visit to Huacachina) to anyone visiting Peru. It’s a great place to visit and relax and one that is so unique and found in so few places in the world. Next time you are in Peru, definitely give this unique gem a visit, you won’t regret it!