Huacachina Desert Oasis is the largest sand dune in South America, located four hours south of Lima, Peru in the Ica region. Much like other areas in Peru, the area boasts a unique and beautiful landscape, made up of both a desert and a lagoon. People like to visit Huacachina because of the combination of its terrain—which is uncommon—and the activities available there, which are rarely offered elsewhere in the world and are a lot of fun. Some popular things to do in the area are to go on a dune buggy tour and to go sandboarding down the desert dunes.
This article breaks down how to take a trip to Huacachina, including how to get there from Lima and what to do once there.
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About Huacachina Desert Oasis
In the center of the Huacachina Desert Oasis is a lagoon that’s skirted by palm trees. Around the lagoon is a town that’s full of hotels, shops, restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. The lagoon looks man-made because it’s so different than what one might expect to see in a desert, but it’s 100% natural. The trees that line the lagoon are there to preserve its shape, and they also add to its visual appeal.
Huacachina was first inhabited by different indigenous cultures, including the Quechua. In the 1950s, it became a resort for Peruvians. In the 1990s, more hotels and shops were built around the lagoon in order to make it an international tourist attraction. Today, Huacachina is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Peru.
How to get to Huacachina
Huacachina is located in the Ica Region of Peru. The closest international airport to Huacachina is Jorge Chavez International Airport (LIM) located in Lima, Peru. Most tourists that visit Huacachina start their trip by flying into Lima, and then taking a bus to Huacachina. The bus ride from Lima to Huacachina is about 4 hours long. There are other routes that can be taken to get to Huacachina (for example, some travel from Arequipa to Huacachina), but we’ll focus on the most common path which is from Lima here.
There are a few bus options to Huacachina from Lima. One of the best bus companies in Peru is Cruz Del Sur. They offer daily trips from Huacachina to Peru and have affordable, safe, and comfortable buses. Ticket prices vary based on time of day and season, so check their website for the most up-to-date information. They offer “standard” tickets and “VIP” tickets. The VIP ticket will get you a more comfortable chair that reclines and some extra snacks for the trip. Cruz Del Sur will stop in Ica, and from there, you can take a public taxi from the bus stop to the Huacachina Desert Oasis.
Another popular busing company in Peru is Peru Hop. Peru Hop offers tours throughout all of Peru. This option is recommended if you’d like to visit several cities throughout Peru via bus. One of the routes that Peru hop takes is to go from Lima to Huacachina. Peru Hop is more expensive than Cruz Del Sur but is ideal if you’re planning to see a lot of Peru and want to do it with one, consistent company. Peru Hop will take you directly to the Huacachina Desert Oasis.
What to do in Huacachina
There’s a lot to do in Huacachina; sandboarding, riding on a dune buggy, relaxing by the lagoon, and more. Here’s a list of some of the top things to do in Huacachina:
- Spend time near the lagoon:
The lagoon is one of the coolest features in the area. There are some activities that you can do there; such as paddle boarding or going on a short boat ride from side to side. If you’d prefer to passively view the lagoon, then you can have a meal at one of the many restaurants surrounding it.
- Go on a Huacachina Buggy Tour:
The tour of Huacachina via dune buggy is one of the most exciting things that you can do in Peru, and possibly one of the most exciting things you’ll do in your life. A dune buggy is a vehicle with large tires that can handle driving through deep and steep sand dunes. Dune buggies can move very quickly through the desert.
The Huacachina buggy tour departs from in front of a location in the village surrounding the lagoon. The dune buggy drives slowly through the village and then drives into the sand dunes. Once the buggy gets into the sand dunes, it will drive very quickly and at times fly through the air as it storms from one dune top to the next. It’s a very fast and very adrenaline-pumping experience. It gives you the same feeling that you get when you ride on a roller coaster.
You can book a Huacachina buggy tour in advance, or you can book one when you arrive in Huacachina the day of. There are tours that depart frequently and via several companies in the area. Here’s a link to book the tour that I went on, and recommend.
The tours are approx. 2 hours long and depart several times a day; the best time to go is during sunset (the last tour of the day) because the sunset looks incredible from the sand dunes and will also make for great photo captures.
- Go Sandboarding in Huacachina:
Sandboarding is usually offered as a part of the Huacachina Buggy tour described above. The dune buggy will stop at the top of a few sand dunes, and encourage you to sandboard down them.
Sandboarding in Huacachina can be done in two ways. Some like to ride their board down as if they’re snowboarding (fit on top of the board, standing upright). The most common way to sandboard in Huacachina is to ride with your stomach on the board, and go head first down the sand dune (like you’re sledding).
While sandboarding is offered as a part of the Dune Buggy tour, visitors can go on the buggy tour and not sandboard.
Visitors can also opt to sandboard on their own, without a guide. There are gear rental shops in the village surrounding the lagoon in Huacachina that rent out things like boards, pads, and helmets. This option is recommended for experienced sand boarders and is not for everyone. If it’s your first time sandboarding, it’s recommended that you go with a guide.
- Learn How Pisco is Made on a Vineyard Tour:
There are some vineyards 10 minutes away from Huacachina, in Ica. The vineyards produce Pisco—which is Peru’s national drink. Like wine, Pisco is made from grapes but is fermented differently than wine. You’ll learn all about the process of making Pisco on the vineyard tour and will get to taste some Pisco when the tour concludes. Warning: Pisco is very strong, so don’t plan to do much after the tour!
What to Pack for a Trip to Huacachina
Here’s a list of things to bring to Huacachina that might not be so obvious:
- Sunscreen: It gets really hot in Huacachina and you’ll be very exposed to the sun in the desert. Bring sunscreen!
- Brimmed Hat: You’ll be out in the open with no shade during a lot of your trip, a brimmed hat will help.
- Sneakers: Sneakers are ideal for walking through the desert. If not sneakers, then be sure to wear close-toed shoes that you can walk up and down dunes easily in.
- Pants that come past your knees: If you go sandboarding in Huacachina, you’ll want to wear pants or shorts that extend beyond your knee. This will help when you slide down the dune.
- Camera: You’ll want to take a lot of pictures in Huacachina. Especially if you walk the sand dunes during sunset.
- Refillable Water Bottle: Bring a water bottle and refill it with filtered water while there.
- A Sweater or Sweatshirt: Huacachina is hot during the day and cold at night. Bring a layer to throw on when it gets chilly.
The Best Huacachina Hotels & Hostels
- Ecocamp Huacachina:
The experience here will feel a lot like glamping. There are private tents offered here—each with two beds. The bathrooms are shared and there’s an on-property pool, restaurant, and bar. The eco-camp is next to the sand dunes, so the view from the eco-camp is good. This is a great place to stay for solo travelers or groups that want to have a unique experience in Huacachina.
- Wild Rover Hostel:
Wild Rover Hostel is in every major city throughout Peru, including in Huacachina. This is a great option for budget travelers or solo travelers who are looking for a community. There are daily parties in the hostel where solo travelers can meet others to do activities with. The hostel also organizes local tours for its guests, which is convenient.
- El Huerto Hostel:
This hostel is located in Ica, so guests will have to take a short taxi ride from the hostel to Huacachina. The property is beautiful and the rooms are comfortable. This is a higher-cost option for those travelers with a little more budget to spend on accommodation.
- Hotel Boutique La Angostura:
This is a good option for travelers that have a higher budget and are looking to stay in a nice hotel. The hotel is in Ica and has private rooms, wi-fi, an on-site spa, and a pool.
Enjoy Your Trip to Huacachina!
Huacachina Desert Oasis is one of the most fascinating places that you can visit. It’s unique terrain looks even cooler in person than it does in the pictures and the activities that you’ll do there such as going on a dune buggy tour, sandboarding, and learning how Pisco is made will be fun & memorable.
If Huacachina is a stop on your itinerary during a trip to Peru, then check out some of the articles below for advice for some additional places that you might visit during your stay. A great stop on your journey would be to visit the Paracas National Reserve, which is about 1.5 hours away from Huacachina, and en route from Huacachina to Lima.