Huacachina - Cartoon-perfect desert oasis

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November 25th 2009
Saved: June 29th 2010
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Huacachina , a cartoon-perfect desert oasis nestled in a valley of sand dunes just outside of the city of Ica. It's so amazing that it's featured on the back of the 50 Nuevo Sol note, and was undoubtedly the inspiration for the mirage oases that you see in cartoons and movies. We didn't plan on visiting here, but the impromptu visit was one of our best decisions and a highlight of our journey through Peru.

Huacachina is a microscopic town set against a breathtaking backdrop of towering sand dunes extending as far into the horizon as the eye can see. A genuine desert oasis. A picturesque lagoon sits in the middle, lined by palm trees and antique buildings. It's very tourist-oriented, and there are not many Peruvian people there. In fact, there's not many people there at all! A handful of hostals and restaurants are situated along the perimeter of the lagoon, but that's it. Nothing else to see. It's a perfect place for party-seeking backpackers to come and relax, chill, and get away from all the hassles in Peru.

The main attraction, besides its sheer beauty, is sandboarding. And dune buggy rides too. When we arrived, our taxi dropped us off at a youth hostel (Hostal Rocha) where we booked a room for 40s ($13.33) and our sandboarding + dune buggy adventure for 80s ($26.67, plus 7s/$2.33 in taxes when you enter the dunes). Sandboarding is exhilarating and dangerous. But it's worth every second of the risk! Standing up and riding the dunes is a painful art (see video of Laure) which results in virtually all tourists (ourselves included, on the big slopes) laying on the sandboard, face-down on the stomach, zooming down the dunes at breakneck speeds (literally) of up to 35mph. With your face just a quarter of an inch away from unforgiving sand, it's as scary as it is fun.

The dune buggy ride was also very exciting! The crazy driver speeds up the steepest sand dunes and then you fly down almost vertical slopes. If you like rollercoasters, you'll love the dune buggy ride!! Our tour lasted about two hours, with one hour of sand boarding and the other hour spent zooming around the desert. The buggy stops at dunes of various sizes, you sandboard down, the driver then picks you up at the bottom and takes you off somewhere else. Then you repeat the experience again. Fun, fun!!

After all that excitement, we went back to the hostal to clean up, as we had sand in places you don't even want to know about! We took a pleasant walk around the lagoon and picked a restaurant for happy hour. For just 50s ($16.67) we shared four strawberry daiquiris, two 650ml beers, and a plate of cheese fries -- AND that price included a generous tip!! We stumbled back to our hostal and quickly fell asleep while listening to the party that was still going on outside. It's a good thing we had been drinking because otherwise we would have had a very difficult time getting to sleep on the not-so-clean (read: sheets probably had never been washed) bed. 😊

ld! recommended! as an essential component to a Peruvian tour.

Additional photos below
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Hostal Rocha Hostal Rocha
Hostal Rocha

Nice pool for chilling

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