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Hiding in Peru is one of South America’s best-kept secrets, the stunning oasis of Huacachina. Huacachina is the only desert oasis in South America and is made both for adventure lovers and people who just want to relax. It is said that the oasis was formed when a beautiful native princess was preparing to bathe when in a mirror she saw a hunter coming. She dropped the mirror and fled and the mirror turned into the lagoon of Huacachina. The folds of her dress became the sand dunes and it is rumored that she still lives in the lagoon as a mermaid. This stunning desert oasis is located just outside the main city of Ica and is worth the trek from Lima to Huacachina to discover the calming oasis and hike the immense sand dunes that surround the city.
How To Get From Lima To Huacachina
Bus to Ica
The most available route from Lima to Huacachina is by taking a bus to Ica and then taking a tuk-tuk or taxi to the oasis. There are several bus companies that run buses daily to Ica from Lima including Cruz del Sur and Soyuz. These buses take about five hours to reach Ica and cost around 50-70 soles. It is then about a ten-minute ride into the dunes. The taxi should usually cost around 5-10 soles.
Peru Hop is a bus and travel company that works as a hop on hop off bus throughout southern Peru and Bolivia. It is also the only bus company that will drop you off directly in Huacachina. You can choose from several different routes or even do a 2 or 3-day tour from Lima which goes through Huacachina. The best thing about this company is that when you book a trip you can pause it at any moment to spend a longer time in one place and then just resume your journey when you feel like it. Gotta love that flexibility!
Rent a Car
If you are looking for a truly direct route to Huacachina, then your best bet is to rent a car. From Lima to Huacachina, the journey straightforward down the Southern Pan American Highway which stretches from Canada down to the tip of Chile. The journey takes four hours and forty-five minutes if you drive straight through. Although with a car at your disposal you may be tempted to stop at other sights in Peru like Paracas. The only issue with a car is there is not much parking in Huacachina so you may want to double check that your hotel/hostel offers parking. Otherwise, there is a lot just as you enter town where you can park the car for a small fee. It is supposed to be relatively safe as it is located next to the police station.
What to Do in Huacachina
Huacachina is made for adventure lovers and there is certainly a fair amount of activities to get your heart racing out on the dunes. But don’t worry if you would rather keep your heart at a normal pace you can still enjoy the magic of this desert oasis!
Hike the Dunes
The dunes are at your fingertips in Huacachina and there is nothing to stop you from grabbing some water and taking off to trek on your own. While you may not want to wander too far off and stay away from the racing dune buggies, there are plenty of dunes you can hike right around the lagoon for a spectacular view of the city and the dunes that stretch for miles.
Hike to the top of the dunes or just a little bit like Alex and then dramatically roll down them….
If you want to be in control out on the dunes why not rent an ATV? There are several places you can join an ATV tour of the dunes and take off with a guide. So go crazy and tackle the dunes on your own if you dare!
Sandboarding is one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have in Huacachina. It is just you, a board, and a staggering giant incline. The dunes in Huacachina are massive and there is a range of dunes that you can cruise down from beginner to anxiety-inducing. If you are a novice you can slide down the sand on your stomach with your feet as your brakes. Or you can take on the sand snowboard style and latch the board on and carve those sand dunes!
That tiny black speck on the dunes there? That is someone sandboarding!
Dune Buggies are one of the best ways to tackle the death-defying ups and downs of the dunes. During the day you can hear the screams off in the distance as people take off for their daily dune buggy tours. While you can choose the speed you want to go you should really test your limits and go for a wild ride. At the end, you will find yourself windblown, full of sand and with a grin you can’t wipe off your face!
*Note – Most dune buggy tours include sand boarding so you can take advantage of doing both at the same time! (Or if you join Peru Hop’s 3-Day tour it is included!)
Watch the Sunset from the Dunes
There is perhaps nothing as magical as a sunset in the desert. In Huacachina it is really easy to hike up a short dune (relatively), grab a seat in the sand and watch the sunset over the dunes. The changes in the color of the sand and the sky will capture your imagination.
Relax by the Oasis
Had enough of your heart racing? Why not take a snooze underneath a palm tree next to the quiet lagoon. There is really something peaceful about a lazy afternoon by the oasis. There is a lovely sandy area where you can set up camp for the afternoon and just let your cares disappear.
Take a Paddle Boat Around the Oasis
While relaxing by the oasis is great why not take a leisurely paddle across the lagoon. The lagoon may not be large but it is a lovely spot to take a paddle boat or even a rowboat across the water. Imagine yourself as the native princess just relaxing in the water and the hours will just slip away.
Don’t forget to take a dip in the water either! It is rumored that the water and the mud from the lagoon have restorative powers. Although if you are a male be careful; it is rumored that the mermaids that live in the lagoon pull one man under every year.
Huacachina is the perfect spot to get away from Lima and take in equal parts of heart-racing adventure and lazy leisure time. This gem of a desert oasis is a true Peruvian treasure and shouldn’t be missed when visiting the country! After all, you now get to say you’ve been to the only desert oasis in South America. So what are you waiting for? Escape Lima to Haucachina!
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