Huacachina: The Oasis of the Americas

What is the Huacachina Oasis?

When people need to relax because they are too stressed out, they are told to find their ‘oasis.’ It is that calm spot that makes your worries go away. That is not at all what I am talking about here. I am talking about the real deal, the ecological biome known as an ‘oasis.’ So, what the heck is an oasis?

The oasis biome is classified as one where there is an unprecedented body of water within a desert. While a couple exist in the American continents, Huacachina is the only true oasis, like the kinds you would likely find in the middle of the Sahara Desert. I am talking about a huge….enormous sand dune as far as the eye can see with a single, large lake and a couple of trees in the middle. Much like the saying (I guess its not a saying) goes, Huacachina also makes all of your worries go away.

Sand Dune  - Huacachina

Peru turned out to be an amazing place, and much like anywhere else, I wish I had 2 months instead of two weeks to explore it. After adrenaline filled days in Machu Picchu, Cuzco, and Nazca, it was time to slow things down in this place that promised to be as relaxing as any spot in the world. While it definitely did not surpass Machu Picchu in terms of the highlight of my trip (read: article fore shadowing!), it definitely lived up to the hype. Huacachina is a place you have to see to believe.

What did we do?

My friend Sarah and I arrived in Huacachina after a 12 hour bus ride from Cuzco to Nazca, a flight over the Nazca lines, and another 3 hour bus from Nazca to Ica where the oasis is located. We spent most of the first night just relaxing in our room at the Banana’s Adventure Hostel and ordering some of their fantastic food. Given the last few days, we slept in and enjoyed the view of two mountains of sand from out hostel window.

This is the view from the window of our room.
This is the view from the window of our room.

The next day, after an hour or two of relaxing on the hammocks outside, it was time to go dune buggying.

Dune Buggying / Sand Boarding!

Dune buggy - Huacachina
They didn’t actually let us drive.

Our hostel offered “discounted prices” for staying at the hostel but when I asked around, it was pretty much the same price as everywhere else (30-35 soles / 13 USD). The cost included 2-3 hours of riding a dune buggy,

sand boarding,

Sand boarding - Huacachina
Much like snowboarding, sand boarding takes some practice. The general concept is pretty much the same.

and taking in some of the greatest desert biome views in the world:

After a few failed attempts at riding the sand boards upright,

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I learned that this sport it best spent on your belly. However, be careful as on my second dune buggy trip (yes I did it twice), one guy hit his chin and started bleeding a lot!

If you happen to be a snowboarder, it is much better to use a snowboard as the sand boards are designed to slow you down for safety. If you have the time and are passionate about it, there are even sand boarding lessons (with snowboards) near the entrance of the main dunes.

You will be warned, but don’t forget to bring change as there is a tax of 3.70 Soles (1.50 USD) per person to enter the main dune in addition to the cost of the trip.

Finally, you return as the sun is coming down, which leads to some of the most stunning views ever. Like this:

Huacachina at night
I hate carrying tripods, but oh how I wish I had one to take this shot. I jerry-rigged a tripod using my camera bag, and my two fingers. This is the best I came up with on a 15 second exposure.

And this:

A ground view of Huacachina at night.
A ground view of Huacachina at night.

I did a little research and think I made the right choice by staying at the Bananas Adventure Hostel. They have both bunk beds and private rooms (I took a room), and it was totally worth it for 30 USD (for 2 people). At night, the oasis was really quiet as, although it was ‘high season,’ hardly anyone was there. Every visitor seemed to come to this hostel to eat as it had some of the best food in the area.

Oh, I almost forgot, bring cash as there is a single ATM in the whole oasis area, and it was broken when I came.

There were two other tours offered if you stay in the area: A tour of the Ica pisco facory and wine fields, and a tour of the Paracas Natural Reserve. I did both of them, but those will be the subjects of different posts.

 

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Julio Moreno

Julio is a California native who has lived abroad since 2009 as an expat in South Korea and New Zealand. He is especially passionate about experiencing other cultures and visiting as many UNESCO World Heritage Sites as possible.
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