Located near Ica in Peru, we made our way to Huacachina for the same reason as everyone else; to sand board, ride in a dune buggy, and shake the sand out of our shoes after a great sunset! What will perhaps disappoint some people is the proximity of this oasis from the town of Ica… you see you do not need to take a long ride out into the sand dunes to find Huacachina, quite the opposite. You can arrive here from Ica in under 10 minutes, with the surrounding towns hidden by the proximity of the steep sand dunes situated around the small oasis built up as the town of Huacachina.
We still wanted to go here though, as we had heard it was a great experience heading out into the desert and strapping yourself onto a cheap piece of wood with some velcro to then slide down some hills! And of course there is always other things to do in places like this (not much, but some!), which during our short time here we were also able to experience. Here’s a quick guide to Huacachina, a tourist destination but one not to be missed.
Where to Stay?
For us there was only one good option in town that balanced pricing alongside some decent reviews and what we heard were some great benefits. For 35 soles we booked in at the Wild Olive Guest House, which also gave us a free breakfast in their restaurant (choice of either an omelette, eggs how you like them, pancake, or fruit salad with most coming with bread, alongside coffee and juice) and free entrance into the pool located at Desert Nights Eco camp.
We definitely took advantage of the free pool access, taking some time to relax and swim whilst staring up at the imposing dunes in front of us.
What to Do?
1. Sandboarding and Sand Buggy Tour
Of course the number one thing to do in Huacachina is to take this tour, which is run once in the morning and again in the late afternoon. We recommend taking the late afternoon tour which begins at around 4pm and finishes at about 6. This way you get to see the sunset over the dunes alongside a wild buggy ride and some crazy sandboarding!
We were taken well out into the dunes and given opportunities to slide down some sand dunes either on our bellies or strapped in like a proper boarder (though standing was a bit harder than snowboarding that’s for sure). Waxing up our boards we went down as fast as we could – no time for brakes!
What we didn’t realise is that the actual sand buggy isn’t really just used for transportation, but also as a form of rollercoaster in rocketing around the sand dunes in an attempt to scare the shit out of the tourists. It definitely worked for some in our car, but mostly it was a bit of fun with some adrenaline pumping. After this we were able to see the sunset, before returning back to a hill above the oasis for some final photos of the town from above. After this, the tour concluded!
We saw this tour quoted for anywhere between 30 and 40 soles, though were able to get ours for 25 soles each. We’re not sure if it’s possible to get it even cheaper, but it probably is given the Peruvian nature of bargaining for everything!
2. Go Sandboarding by Yourself
If you have already done the buggy tour and have not gotten enough boarding in, it is easy enough to rent a board in town and hike up the dunes surrounding the town for a few runs. You can easily get your monies worth if you have the board the whole day and get in 5 or so runs depending on your hiking energy!
You can even rent a proper snowboard and snowboard boots if you want, giving a much closer experience to actual snowboarding and allowing you to use proper bindings to strap yourself in instead of the velcro straps usually provided.
3. Climb the Dunes
You can really do this at any time, as the streets in town turn into sand pretty quickly and then start heading up a steep slope. We would recommend going either early in the morning or when the sun starts to lose its heat a bit in the afternoon, because even by 10am it begins to get too hot to go up.
From town it should only take around 15-20 minutes to reach the top where you can get some great views and even better photos. We were recommended to go up here for sunrise as well but did not feel like getting up that early! After you have finished looking at the views, the easiest and fastest way to go is to ignore the path you took up and just leg it down the face of the sand, zigzagging along to control your speed. You will get down in under a minute; we guarantee it!
4. Use the Pool at Desert Nights Eco Camp
As stated, if you stay at Wild Olive you can go into the pool at Desert Nights for free, and take advantage of the hopefully nice weather (it always seems to be sunny there) for a swim and a relaxing time next to the dunes.
The beers here are a little expensive at 6 soles for a small can, but this is a great place to hang out nonetheless and a great added benefit of staying at Wild Olive.
There are of course other activities that can be done in town, but they generally involve much of the same. For example you can rent ATV’s and take them up and around the dunes (or go on a tour), but you get most of this adrenaline from the sandboarding/buggy tour anyway.
In any case, after spending just one night here we were ready to move on. We really got 2 days out of Huacachina though as we were catching a night bus from Ica (the nearby town) to Arequipa on the day we checked out, meaning we could relax some more on the shores of the Huacachina oasis. We ended up having a great and memorable time here, and would definitely come back!