Destinations Latin America Peru

The desert oasis in South America?

Huacachina is completely different from anything you’d imagine to find in South America. With a population of only 115, Huacachina is a natural oasis located only a few kilometres from the larger town Ica.

And it really is a certifiable oasis.

Upon arrival, you are confronted firstly by the mountainous sand dunes that surround you on all sides. Enclosed within this haven is a greenish lagoon garnished with paddle boats and outlined by palm trees.

My hostel was perhaps twenty metres from the lagoon, and once I ditched the shoes, they stayed out of sight all day. To feel sand between your toes and the warmth of the sun thawing the Andean frost from your skin is bliss.


Huacachina is a certifiable oasis in a Peruvian desert

There is virtually only one thing to do in Huacachina besides joining the locals for a swim in the lagoon. The combined sand-boarding and dune-buggying tour is unmissable.

Firstly, the dune buggies whisk you away from town, careening up and down the 100m sand dunes at a hair-raising speed, pulling doughnuts in the sand and bouncing over several successive smaller dunes.

This is a natural roller-coaster ride and it’s impossible to wipe the grin off your face, even if it means receiving a mouthful of sand.

huacachina sand dunes

Dune buggies careen around these dunes at incredible speed

When we finally stopped, we were able to catch the wonders of this interminable desert, one sand dune rising up beyond another.

But whilst we marvelled at the steep slopes dropping below us, our driver began to unload the sand boards. It seemed impossible that anything should descend these grainy cliffs, let alone a human being-turned amateur sand boarder.

Luckily, there is a cop-out way of getting oneself down these inclines; face-first on the tum.

It is a strange sport (and just for the record nothing like snowboarding, as the daring but tumbling attempts at standing proved) that takes a while to get used to; the board wobbles even when you’re on your belly.


Sand boarding. A sport that definitely takes some getting used to


But after the first few attempts, the velocity and the steep inclinations give you a little thrill. Still, the stomach-lurching adrenaline caused by the dune-buggying was, for me, a far preferable method of transport and I eagerly embarked on the strange vehicle again.

A perfect culmination to the perfect day is to watch the sun sink below the dunes from the highest nearby point. The sand granules in the air make the solar orb distinctly visible as it descends, smearing its golden reflection across the sky.

See more of Peru

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