Peru is an incredible country for backpackers. It’s easy to get around and cheap, as well as having a large number of world renowned sights like Machu Picchu. An absolute backpacker favourite and newcomer onto the Instagram scene is Huacachina.
If you’re following the Peru Gringo trail then you’ve probably spent a few days dusty & dry and on a variety of buses, then suddenly, out of the desert appears a compact oasis resort, a dreamy lagoon surrounded by palm trees and 200m high dunes, welcome to Huacachina.
Possibly shortened from the Quechua word meaning ‘hidden lagoon’, Huacachina is like something from a movie. 5km from nearby Ica, it’s a small village surrounding a natural fresh water lagoon, flanked by sand dunes stretching some few hundred feet high.
How to get to Huacachina
Most of the buses from destinations around Peru including Lima, stop at Ica and not Huacachina directly. The exception to this is the more expensive Peru Hop bus favoured by younger travellers.
The cheaper inter city buses such as Cruz Del Sur and Oltursa go at more regular intervals from the main terminal in Lima and stop at the main bus station in Ica. From here you can get a short taxi ride over the dunes to Huacachina for around $2/per person for a full cab.
Where to stay in Huacachina.
Huacachina has a dozen hostels and hotels surrounding the lagoon, all with slightly elevated prices due to the limited options, we found that virtually all had sold out over New Year and those left had tripled their prices so do check ahead for busy periods and festivals. It’s also worth noting that some hostels and hotels label themselves as being located by the lagoon but are actually a long and fairly unsafe walk from nearby Ica.
We stayed at Carola del Sur
, a smart hostel offering a duneside pool larger than most in the area,. It hosts BBQ evenings including all you can drink at the large bar/disco and friendly staff happy to help out. It’s one of the recommended spots on the Peru Hop bus so if you’re a solo traveller you’ll be able to make friends with others.
Wild Olive Trattoria & Guest House
is a no frills pizzeria with salad options. Large pizzas in a variety of flavours with options for vegetarians are served in a nice surrounding with options for the outdoor terrace.
When I asked a friend for her Peru recommendations her reply was “You have to try the chocolate cake at Banana’s hostel!” What I thought was a slightly over the top recommendation of travelling to try a cake did turn out to be true; it is a cake to rival most cakes. The food & drink menu in general is pretty comprehensive and offers great quality whilst admittedly mostly western food at good prices.
They have some good breakfast options including tasty pancakes and although unimpressive to look at ‘Israeli burger’ was good value.
What to do in Huacachina
Relax! It’s a good place to chill and remind yourself of some true hostel life. Early beers by the pool while listening to local tunes, chat with the locals and other travellers, take advantage of the happy hour offers that most hotels offer before partying until dawn at some of the disco bars on the side streets.
Sandboarding and Dune Buggies
When you arrive in Huacachina you’ll be bombarded with offers of rides into the dunes on the Mad Max style buggies. Many of these also include the chance to try sandboarding. Shop around a bit and negotiate your price, preferably early morning or about 4pm to avoid the midday sun. It’s possible to hire your own from Ica Adventures
or go on a fun group trip if you’re a little more nervous.
Walk to the top of the dunes for sunset
At around 5pm, dozens of people set off up the dunes ready to watch the sunset. Make the journey a bit easier by zig zagging your way up. Make sure to take sunglasses as if it’s remotely windy then you’ll struggle to see with all the sand blowing. Take a couple of beers (but be sure to take your rubbish with you as the dunes are surprisingly litter covered in some areas) and watch the dune buggies shoot around like little bugs in the distance as well as the skillful sandboarders zoom past easily. When you’ve had your sunset fix, it’s the much more fun than climbing up descent which takes about 10 seconds!