All You Need To Know For Visiting Huacachina, Peru’s Desert Oasis
Huacachina is South America´s only desert oasis that’s built around a serene desert lake. It has a permanent population of just 100 people. It´s located at the end of the Atacama Desert and forms part of the Pacific Coastal Desert of Peru. The name is in Quechua meaning hidden lagoon. Situated in the Ica region, the famous desert oasis is a short 5km/3 miles from the center of Ica and a 5-hour drive from Lima. This must-see destination is made of massive sand dunes and a picturesque lagoon in its center. Huacachina is packed with adrenalin-pumping adventure sports like sandboarding and dune bugging.
Just outside the oasis is a thriving agro-export industry. The agriculture cultivated here includes grapes, asparagus, date palms, pecan nuts, cotton, mangoes, and avocadoes. The cultivation of grapes has ensured the exponential growth of the wine industry in Ica. It is currently the biggest producer of wine and the local spirit of Pisco in Peru. From Huacachina you can join an inexpensive tour to a few bodegas in Ica to taste a variety of wines.
Why is Huacachina a must-do destination?
Huacachina Oasis is a unique place due to its natural beauty. Besides its gorgeous lagoon with all those tropical palms and year-round hot climate, you will also find large dunes, perfect for a thrilling adventure. If you do a buggy tour in the afternoon, you can be privy to a mesmerizing sunset over the dunes, a magical experience. Surrounding Ica are also other amazing and unique attractions, like the Nasca lines, wine tasting in Ica, and the Bio-diverse island of Ballestas in Paracas. Below we have added a little more information on the great activities to try in Huacachina.
SANDBOARDING AND DUNE BUGGYING:
Here, you can ride up the incredible sand dunes in dune buggies, and experience the best sandboarding in Peru. The dunes get as high as 500m/ 1600 ft. Recommended time to do the tour is in the afternoon, when the desert heat cools and you can enjoy amazing sunset views from the top of the dunes while indulging on some Pisco.
Ica is the center of the Peruvian Pisco industry. Its also the largest producer of wine in the country. The town is saturated with vineyards and wineries. Because of this, you can visit multiple Bodegas in a day, who are very close to each. No need to trek long distances whilst tipsy. Important thing to note is that Peruvian wine is very sweet because of its climate. Here you can learn about the distillery process of Pisco and wine, and even try some free samples at the end of the tour. Tours will be done by a local tour guide in either English or Spanish
REGIONAL MUSEUM OF ICA:
This museum was founded in 1946 and focuses on the Pre-Hispanic cultures of Peru. It contains over 26 thousand archeological pieces belonging to different indigenous cultures. In 2011 the Swedish government returned mantles from the Paracas culture. The museum carries many artifacts from the indigenous cultures of Peru, including some Inca utensils, Paracas textiles, Nazca ceramics , miniture models of the Nazca lines and many more items from the Chincha and Wari civilizations. The museum has a scattering of archeorlogical pieces like ancient bones and Huaco (ancient Peruvian Pottery). With Sam Corporations we bring our own bilingual guide, because the museum only conducts tours in Spanish.
PADDLE BOARD IN THE LAGOON:
Renting a paddle boat is a magical, tranquil way to explore Huacachina. You get to see the town from a different perspective and, as an added bonus, take beautiful shots of the lagoon, the oasis, and the surrounding dunes.
Paddle boats, as well as canoes, can be found and rented at the lagoon’s shore.
What are the best hotels? (low, mid and high end)
Generally, Huacachina has a higher price tag compared to other places in Peru. However, the town generally upholds a high standard in the accommodation they provide because of how competitive it is. It is a tourist town and is predominantly made up of tour agencies, accommodation establishments, restaurants and souvenir shops. We recommend booking before hand for the best prices, because of its isolation, they can inflate the prices on location.
Budget: The most affordable options in Huacachina would be 3 star hotels and hospidajes. Most will offer a private room, with a private bathroom and a communal pool. They are usually quite and great if you need to work while traveling.
Mid range: Hostels and backpackers are actually more in the mid-range price range. The most popular being Banana Hostel and Wild Rover. This is also where the whole town heads to for a bit of fun. Parties can go on until the early hours of the morning. If you are a foreigner staying in a different hotel, no problem, simply bring your passport to enter the bar. This is done to ensure the safety of their guests. If you need peace and quite during your stay, then this might not be the best option for you.
High End: The high end hotels are located outside the town. This is primarily because there is not enough space in Huacachina for big establishments. A great option is the luxurious Las Dunas Hotel, located 5km from Huacachina. Another good option would be the Hotel Viñas Queirolo.
What are the must visit restaurants?
In general, most restaurants are good, but nothing like the fancy world class ones you will find in Lima or Cusco. The town has great selection of fresh seafood, and fresh vegetables. So, if you are fan of food from the ocean, then this one of the best locations in Peru to try the best seafood dishes.
What are the transportation options to visit from Lima?
The only way to reach the city of Ica from Lima is by land. There are many bus options, and the trip by bus usually takes 5 hours. Without a doubt, the best option is taking private transportation, as this option offers more flexibility in terms of sightseeing and also being able to add stops at places of interest along the way. The private trip takes 4 hours and is a much more comfortable and enjoyable ride. We recommend stopping in the small coastal town of Paracas along the way. Peru Bus departs from Lima frequently and goes directly to Ica. From Ica you can take a private taxi, which is a short 15 minute drive.
Off the Beaten track tours, activities or destinations to see:
Along the road from Lima to Ica, if traveling by private car, visitors may visit the Paracas Peninsula, a fantastic natural reserve with amazing views of the desert and the Pacific Ocean. Some activities in town include a relaxing boat ride to the bio-diverse island of Ballestas or kayaking in the fishing lagoon. A real off the beaten track tour would be Moron Lagoon Oasis, located near Pisco. This remote and seldom visited lagoon is stunning and isolated. From the words of the locals, attempting to venture here on your own is not the best of ideas. Firstly, its extremely isolated, if you have a medical emergency, getting immediate assistance is not an option. Secondly, there is no cellular network, so if you experience problems with your vehicle which is very lightly in a desert, it could be days or even weeks before someone comes to give you assistance. All in all, its a great lagoon, but for the time being, its not easily or safely accessible.
Must try foods & drink:
All visitors must try Pisco, a grape brandy very popular among locals. The national drink of Peru is Pisco Sour Cocktail. It even has its own holiday, which is not a nationally observed holiday.
As to the food.. Raw cured fish, known as cebiche or ceviche, is widely available at the local restaurants. Ica is popular for what we call criolla food. Any dish with fresh fish is always a winner and try a unique style of cooking loaded with fresh herbs and spices.
How many days is best to spend in Huacachina?
A 2 day – 1 night trip is good enough to sufficiently experience the main activities that the destination has to offer.
Looking to extend your time along the Coast?
We suggest adding on a day or two to explore the Nazca lines via flight. Also the Paracas coast and the Ballestas Islands – the “Galapagos of Peru” provides a great opportunity to see many different kinds of marine life. Watch thousands of seabirds including Humboldt penguins, boobies, pelicans, and sea lions in this wildlife sanctuary.
Tips for Visiting Huacachina:
- Bring cash as there is only one sometimes unreliable ATM in the very small town.
- Make sure to catch a sunset from the top of the dunes
- Go on a Pisco Tour “Peruvian brandy” and visit the Bodegas
Explore our trekking options to Machu Picchu with our expects at Orange Nation Peru.