Huacachina is in the Ica Desert, 350km south of Lima. It’s a village constructed around a natural oasis, found in the middle of the white desert sand dunes. It has an emerald green lake, surrounded by lush vegetation, such as palms, eucalyptus, and acacias typical. The lake is naturally supplemented by underground water - and now also artificially, as water levels have diminished due to locals using the water supply. These waters have been said to have healing properties since 1940, when Huacachina became a popular spa – people used to come to bathe. Today, although its population is only around 100 people, it is a very famous tourist destination due to its incredible landscape, with giant sand dunes. The best activities are sandboarding and dune buggies. You’ll find a few small shops, many hotels/hostels, and places to eat. There lake was formed naturally, but if you would like to believe otherwise, there are legends with different explanations of its creation:
1. Huacachina was a princess who was walking around the desert with bed sheets around her body and with her mirror in her hand. Suddenly, a hunter showed up and tried to kill her. Running for her life, she tripped over her clothes and the mirror broke falling in the lagoon. She hid in the lagoon from the hunter, but she waited so long that when she emerged she had become a mermaid.
2. Huacachina was a beautiful princess who fell in love with a soldier. One day he left to fight a war and he never came back. She was so sad about her loss that she went to the middle of the desert to cry for her loved one. With her tears, she created the lagoon and became a mermaid. Supposedly the princess still lives there, and she comes out on full moon nights to look for a single young man.
Below is our Huacachina travel guide with information on all the best things to do, places to go and what not to miss.
RIDE THE DUNE BUGGIES AND GO SANDBOARDING – One of the most extreme activities to do here in Huacachina. The dune buggy takes you to the top of the highest dunes in the desert, the exhilarating ride is like being on a roller coaster! From there you go down on your chest with your sandboard, or if have some experience you can stand up on the board, but always be careful! Huacachina is the best place to go sandboarding in Peru.
VISIT A PISCO VINYARD – From Huacachina you can take a taxi to El Catador, this is a traditional working Pisco Vineyard where they will explain the Pisco-making process (Peruvian brandy). At the end of the tour, you’ll have the opportunity to sample Pisco!
CAMPING IN THE DESERT – You can spend the night in the middle of the desert and enjoy the beautiful starry sky during the night.
*** WHAT NOT TO MISS ***
This is the best opportunity to experience a dune buggy and sandboarding in Peru.
There are many restaurants around the Oasis and one of the best options is Desert Nights (Boulevard de Huacachina). This is a hostel but they also have a restaurant; here they serve great food and drinks which you can enjoy them with an amazing view of the lagoon.
Despite being a small place, there is a big party atmosphere here in Huacachina, with many backpackers staying just for the nightlife! In fact, people often travel down from Ica for a night out. There are a few bars around the oasis, and on the weekend the biggest club in Huacachina is open found inside Casa de Arena Hostel (Av. Angela de Perotti).
Huacachina is perfect to visit at any time of the year. It’s always very sunny and warm during the day, averaging 25 degrees. February and March are the hottest months. You can only feel the difference of the weather at night-time. In summer time, it is 17 degrees and in winter it is 14 degrees.
The only way to go is by bus, then by taxi!
If you’re coming from Lima, it’s 4.5 hours by bus to Ica, then a taxi which is 15 soles from the bus station. Ica is about 10 minutes from Huacachina.
Stay in the hostels inside the Oasis, instead of Ica city. There are plenty of places, all within a short walk of the lake. A couple of great options include, Desert Nights (Boulevard de Huacachina), a hostel which has a relaxed vibe and also offers good food in its restaurant, and Casa de Arena (Av. Angela de Perotti), which has a bar, dance-floor, outdoor pool, and a restaurant - this option is for the party people!
Do not swim in the lagoon for health reasons.
Use a lot of sunblock, the sun is very strong.
If you don’t have experience sandboarding in Peru DO NOT go down standing up, as you could seriously injure yourself.
If you choose to go sandboarding or on the buggies, it’s best to do a tour in the late afternoon, as if you go in the morning it is very hot. You also get to see the sunset over the dunes if you go later in the day.