Where is Huacachina, Peru? Located near the city of Ica in southwestern Peru, and about four (4) hours driving distance south of Lima, it is quite a magical place being an oasis in the middle of the desert. Surrounded by palm trees, the Huacachina Lagoon is thought to have therapeutic properties.
This small village is encompassed by sand dunes where you will see many dune buggies roaming about as well as people sand-boarding. The evening sunsets are gorgeous and best viewed while having a drink at one of the many lakeside bars.
A Historical Perspective
According to legend, the lagoon was created as a result of a princess bathing, and when she observed a male hunter in a mirror she immediately departed leaving the mirror behind which then became the lake. The lagoon was formed as a result of seepage from underground aquifers. The village was actually a well-known summer resort in the 1960s.
It is the home of the biggest sand dunes on the continent with hotels, houses, and a boardwalk around the lagoon. It has a great climate with friendly people and the sunsets are gorgeous over the desert.
Some Facts to Consider
- the population is about one hundred (100), people
- tens of thousands of people visit each year
- a photo of this oasis was featured in 1991 on the back of the fifty (50) nuevo sol note
- the currency is Peruvian soles (1 Sol equals0.27 United States Dollar)
- the language is Quechua. English is spoken by all the service staff.
- derived from the Quechua language, the name ‘Huacachina‘ means “young crying woman”
- fly into the airport at Lima and then take a bus or get set up with a tour that provides transportation to Huacachina
- anytime time of the year is good to visit. It’s sunny during the day. February and March are the hottest months but only noticeable in the evenings. The average daytime temperature is seventy-seven (77 F) degrees (25 C).
- It is recommended not to swim in the lagoon for health reasons
Things to Do in Huacachina
* Oasis and Lake — the natural desert lake upon which the town is built is called the “oasis of America”. The mud and water are therapeutic according to the legends of the locals. You will observe both locals and tourists bathing in the waters or covering themselves in the mud with the intention of alleviating various maladies such as asthma, rheumatism, bronchitis, and arthritis. According to legend, a very beautiful native princess took off her clothes to bathe when through a mirror she saw a male hunter behind her. She immediately departed from the area but she left her mirror behind which transformed into the lake. Now there are a few additional versions of this folklore such as when she left the area the pool appeared and the folds of her garment became the surrounding sand dunes. There is also a rumor that the princess still resides in the oasis as a mermaid. Although originally created by underground aquifers, in 2015 local business organizations pumped water into the lake to compensate for the loss of water due to increased well drilling.
* Dune Buggies — the buggies are known as areneros. You can join a group tour or rent a dune buggy for around fifty ($50) per hour. You can also take a buggy roller coaster ride that will most definitely get your adventure juices flowing.
* The Legend of the Oasis — the story of the legend has a few different versions but it is based around a young princess, Huacay China, who was mourning the death of her Inca warrior lover and saw him in the mirror which turned into a lake and she dived into the water and became a mermaid.
* Check out the Sunset — you will find people clustering all over the dunes with preferred choice of beverage in hand and experiencing the magnificent view of the sun setting behind the dunes
* Visit the Wineries — Tacama is the most popular winery to visit. There are industrial and artisanal wineries to check out. Pisco, the national beverage of Peru, is also made from grapes and you can observe how it is made as well as have a few samples.
* Bodyboarding — as an alternative to sandboarding you speed down those dunes face down and experience a few thrills. Use sunglasses and keep your mouth closed for the best surfing experience.
* Cruise around the lake in a pedalo — this is a fun way to cruise around the oasis on a boat and take in the different views of the area
* Walk over the Dunes — the dunes are a magnificent sight and taking a hike up and across the dunes can be a worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Just be advised that walking on sand is a very strenuous activity.
* Enjoy the Hostel Scene — Lorenzo is the owner of Upcycled Hostel and he provides a very welcoming experience including relaxing and hanging out around the pool. Other economical places to stay in the center of Huacachina are the Desert Nights Eco camp and Banana’s Adventure.
* The Nightlife — there are plenty of bars and restaurants surrounding the lagoon and people enjoy partying into the night. You will find international tourists and people from all parts of Peru partaking in the festivities in the numerous places to hang out and enjoy. The most popular club in Huacachina is inside Casa de Arena Hostel (Av. Angela de Perotti).
* Ballestas Islands — Paracas is located a little outside of Huacachina and is a laid-back seaside town with the biggest desert reserve in the entire country. You can take a boat ride out to the Peruvian Galapagos and experience some very interesting and unique wildlife including wild penguins. There are thousands of birds and sea lions as well.
* Sandboarding — if boarding is your interest or passion you will find plenty of steep dunes and bumps to keep you busy and engaged for quite some time. Just be aware that it is more challenging than it may first appear.
This is a part of the world that I would say most folks don’t even know about. It would most definitely provide a unique travel experience for sure. This is especially a great place for people backpacking around Peru to hang out and spend some time.
There are plenty of places to stay in Huacachina. Here’s a List of Hotels & Hostels from which to choose. The basics that are necessary for your visit include a swimming suit, tennis shoes, sandals, Peruvian soles (currency), a sweatshirt for the evenings when it cools down a bit, sunglasses to block the sand, sunscreen, hats, and your passport.
One of the best restaurants in the area is the Oasis is Desert Nights (Boulevard de Huacachina) and is located at a hostel. The food and drinks are excellent and you also have a great view of the lagoon.
This is a year-round destination spot. The sun shines throughout the year and it does not rain a lot.
Just for your information, Peru is one of the most economical places to lives in all of South America. Other than in the capital city of Lima where it is a bit more expensive, you can cover your basic costs for two thousand ($2000) dollars or less per month.
This just may be the out-of-the-way adventure you would enjoy by spending a little bit of time at an oasis in the middle of the desert.
Enjoy your travels,
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