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Huacachina Peru: A Desert Oasis

If you're a solo traveller looking for a desert oasis with thrills, cultural escapades, and nightlife, come meander with me to Huacachina Peru, in Ica province.


Daytime view of the lagoon with the trees and dunes reflected.

Found in the southwestern part of Peru, Huacachina is an oasis about 4.5 hours south of the bustling city of Lima, in the province of Ica. This is one of the stops on the Peru Hop itinerary. I chose to spend two nights here to take advantage of the activities available in the area.


The thought of perpetual sunshine and warm desert breezes, high-adrenaline dune adventures and flights above the intriguing Nazca lines make it an appealing escape for those looking to soak up the sun without breaking the bank. From dune buggy rides to sunset dune hikes, Huacachina is a playground with adventure, good food, and a vibrant club scene.

a map showing the location of Huacachina in Peru

 
 

Getting To Huacachina Peru from Lima

Most travellers to Peru will begin their visit in the capital city of Lima. (For ideas on things to explore in Lima, check out this post.) The vast majority of those travellers will soon head to Cusco on one of the frequent, very convenient and reasonably-priced flights between the two cities. For those wanting to explore more than the capital and the Inca sites, a trip south along the coast before looping back north is an excellent way to see more of this incredible and diverse country. An added benefit of taking the slower road route is that you will be able to gently adjust to the Andean altitudes and will be less likely to suffer once you arrive in the Sacred Valley. (Check out this post on Preventing Altitude sickness for more ideas.)


A terrific website with up-to-date routing options, prices, and routing is Rome2Rio. I recommend downloading the app for all your planning needs.

Transportation Options

Scenic Bus Ride

For the budget-conscious wanderer, hopping on a bus from Lima to Huacachina is cheap transportation and provides incredible views. Several reputable bus companies offer comfortable rides, and the journey typically takes around 4-5 hours.

  • Pros: Wallet-friendly, scenic route, a chance to meet fellow travellers.

  • Cons: Longer travel time, shared space, limited personal space.


A lagoon with a smaall boat floaating in the center and a row of pedal boats on the shore behind. In the backgroound is a large sand dune marked by vehicle tracks.

Private Transfer or Vehicle Rental

Another option is a private transfer or self-driving. While it will be pricier than the bus, the comfort and time-saving can be a game-changer, especially if you're itching to hit the dunes ASAP with the flexibility to stop for photo ops or snacks.

  • Pros: Quicker journey, personalized experience, flexibility.

  • Cons: Higher cost, potentially less opportunity to meet other travellers.


Tours from Lima

All the major tour operators plus smaller local tour companies offer package day trips to Huacachina. Check your options on your favourite booking site (Viator, GetYourGuide, or local tourist information offices) to select one that best fits your travel style, time, and budget. I was travelling from Lima to Cusco and chose to use the excellent Peru Hop service. I recommend this company highly. I was very pleased with the business model, efficiency, cost, quality of guides, coach comfort, and incredible traveller support. For more details about my journey with Peru Hop, check out this post.


A large red coach with a Llama logo and the words 'eat sleep hop repeat"

Travel Time Considerations

Whether you opt for the budget-friendly bus or the swift private transfer, factor in the travel time when planning your Huacachina adventure. The bus journey, while longer, allows you to relax, gaze out at the changing landscapes, and embrace the slow travel vibe. On the flip side, a private transfer will have you zipping through the desert in style, minimizing travel time and maximizing your time in Huacachina.


As a solo female traveller, I chose the bus for the scenic route, budget-friendly vibes, and the chance to swap stories with fellow adventurers. For me, it's not just about the destination; it's about the journey, too!


Huacachina's Rich History and Culture

Legend tells us that the oasis was created when a beautiful indigenous princess fled to the desert with a broken heart after a forbidden love. Her tears formed the lagoon that is now Huacachina.


Two open row boats with awnings at the side of the lagoon, with a white egret perched on one boat.

For many years, long before the arrival of dune buggies and nightclubs, Huacachina was an exclusive escape for wealthy Peruvians. Fast forward to today, and Huacachina has transformed into a must-visit destination for thrill-seekers and culture enthusiasts alike. While the natural beauty remains, the oasis now bustles with the energy of tourists from around the globe. This little town embraces its historical roots, with remnants of the past visible in the architecture.


A man playing a saxophone with children dancing in front of him

As you wander through Huacachina's streets, you'll encounter a vibrant blend of old and new, where traditional Peruvian hospitality meets the excitement of modern adventure tourism.


Things to Do in Huacachina Peru

Dune Buggies

A dune buggy excursion in Huacachina is a heart-pounding adventure across the huge dunes that surround the oasis. The journey is not for the faint of heart, as the buggy zooms up and down the colossal dunes, offering breathtaking views of the surrounding desert and the oasis of Huacachina. It was both terrifying and exhilarating! Your heart will be in your throat as the driver maneuvers around the dunes, bouncing and careening as you make your way to the top. Once at the top, you'll explore some of the surrounding dunes racing up and down.

A dune buggy driving up a dune with many vehicle tracks carved into the sand

Be prepared for stinging sand to batter uncovered skin. Long sleeves, pants, eye protection and a bandana/face mask are strongly recommended. I would advise you to leave electronics and cameras behind if you don't have some sort of protective cover.


Sand Boarding

Sandboarding is a fun activity similar to snowboarding with sand hills instead of snow hills. My group were all experienced snowboarders who quickly got a feel for the adjustments needed for sand. I am a skier and have never tried snowboarding. I needed extra instruction and the guide was very encouraging. Sand is softer when falling but getting back up was a struggle! My efforts were less than stellar but I still had a fabulous time. I would recommend making sure your phone is protected from the sand in a pouch.


a sandboard rider doing a trick with a photographer recording the action
image: MGH designs - Pixabay

Hike the Dunes

My favourite activity in Huacachina was a sunset dune hike. Visitors can choose a self-guided route or join a guided tour. I joined a group and was delighted by the guide's knowledge of this unique ecosystem and attentive guidance. At the top, we were treated to a spectacular panoramic view of the oasis and beyond as the sun dipped below the horizon and the lights of the town flicked on.

Looking down on the town surrounding a lagoon at twilight with the lights of the town on

Take a Day Trip

Expand your exploration beyond Huacachina with a day trip to nearby attractions such as Paracas or Nazca.

Paracas is home to Isla Ballestas, a unique conservation area known as "The Poor Man's Galapagos". Day trips around the area leave multiple times a day. For more information about Paracas, check out this post.

A grey and white bird with blue feet and two chicks in a nest
Blue footed booby and chicks at Islas Ballestas

Flights over the mysterious Nazca Lines are a fabulous splurge but for those with tighter budgets, there is a platform beside the highway that allows for views of portions of 3 Nazca figures. Next week's post will provide more details about this excursion, so you'll want to subscribe/become a member to be notified when it is published.


The author staanding in front of a 6 passenger Cessna plane

Enjoy the Nightlife

As the sun dips below the horizon, Huacachina transforms into a vibrant nightlife hub that continues until daylight. The main street is full of local bars and clubs, where you can unwind, mingle with fellow travellers, and dance until the sun rises. You will likely be offered drugs in Huacachina. Be aware that drug possession is a serious crime in Peru. Please don't allow yourself to be tempted, no matter how openly others are using. The few streets quickly fill with people who are less-than-sober once the clubs open. By midnight, very few people on the streets remain sober.


Night scene of the town's lights reflecting on the lagoon


Accommodations in Huacachina

From budget-friendly hostels to luxurious resorts, Huacachina offers a variety of accommodations to suit every traveller's preferences. Consider the pros and cons of each, ensuring a comfortable stay that complements your desert experience.


Hotel Mossone

Indulge in the lap of luxury at Hotel Mossone, an oasis within the oasis. With its stunning architecture and lush gardens, this upscale accommodation offers a serene escape amidst the desert adventure. Luxurious rooms, a refreshing pool, and impeccable service make Hotel Mossone the perfect choice for those seeking a touch of extravagance in Huacachina.


Banana's Adventure Hostel

For the budget-conscious traveller who still craves comfort and a lively atmosphere, Banana's Adventure Hostel is the go-to spot. This mid-level accommodation combines affordability with a social vibe, making it easy to meet fellow adventurers. The hostel offers both private and dorm rooms.


Wild Olive Guesthouse

For the solo explorer on a tight budget, Wild Olive Guesthouse is a cozy and economical option in Huacachina. This budget-friendly guesthouse has clean and comfortable rooms that will provide a restful retreat after a day of desert exploration. Fellow travellers were pleased with this choice.


Wild Rover Hostel

This is the party hostel and they are proud of their reputation. The Wild Rover

arranges daily parties including pool parties, cocktail-making classes, and plenty of opportunities to mingle. If partying is not your scene, look elsewhere for lodgings.


My choice: Desert Nights EcoCamp Huacachina

For eco-conscious budget travellers, Desert Nights EcoCamp Huacachina stands out as a sustainable and unique accommodation option. Each "room" is a large tent with all the comforts of home. The pool area includes a bar with tasty, reasonably priced food and beverages.


Before booking, make sure to check the latest reviews and amenities to ensure that the accommodation aligns with your travel preferences and needs.


Culinary Adventures in Huacachina

Huacachina has a wide range of food options including traditional dishes like ceviche, lomo saltado, and aji de gallina as well as international favourites such as pizza, steak, and burgers. Many of the restaurants are associated with the accommodations with few stand-alone restaurants.

La Casa de Bamboo

For a night of indulgence under the desert stars, La Casa de Bamboo offers a fine dining experience that blends Peruvian and international cuisine. This upscale restaurant, surrounded by bamboo groves, creates a magical ambiance for a romantic evening or a special celebration. Although I did not eat here, a couple I met raved about the quality of their dinner.

Desert Nights RestoBar

I was looking for something more satisfying than pizza but I wasn't interested in a fine dining experience. I was very satisfied with Desert Nights RestoBar. This mid-level eatery serves tasty Peruvian and international dishes in a laid-back atmosphere perfect for unwinding after a day of dune adventures. From appetizers and savoury empanadas to flavourful stir-fries, Desert Nights offers a diverse menu that caters to various palates.


 A plate of barbeque chicken wings with sauce, and cut vegetables

Restaurant al aire libre

Located on the edge of the lagoon, the Restaurant Al Aire Libre has indoor and patio seating overlooking the lagoon. I ordered ceviche and a pisco chicano. The ceviche was beautifully presented but the flavours were not as bright as I would have liked. While the ceviche was disappointing, the location is wonderful. I would choose this for afternoon drinks and snacks but enjoy a meal elsewhere.

A plate of ceviche and a glass with a cloudy drink

Huacafuckingchina Pizza (HFC)

Yes, you read that right – Huacafuckingchina Pizza is not just about the name; it's about serving up some seriously tasty and affordable pizza. With various pizza options and a casual setting, Huacafuckingchina Pizza proves that you don't need to spend a fortune to enjoy a scrumptious meal in Huacachina.


The Downside: Noise

While the vibrant nightlife is vastly appealing to some travellers, others may find the evening noise a challenge. Consider this aspect when planning your stay and opt for accommodations that strike the right balance between proximity to the action and tranquillity.

Front view of a dune buggy on top of a dune at sunset

I found the omnipresent roar of the dune buggies during all the daylight hours, and the echoing thump-thump-thump of nightclub music lasting from sunset to sunrise to be too much. My cozy tent accommodations provided no dampening of the sound. A fellow traveller who stayed at the Wild Rover Hostel also complained about hearing the music all night long.


Final Thoughts

Huacachina, with its blend of adrenaline-pumping adventures, rich cultural history, and stunning landscapes, caters to a diverse audience. If you're a solo traveller on the lookout for heart-pounding escapades and a lively social scene, Huacachina is your desert haven. The dune buggy excursions, sandboarding adventures, and bustling nightlife create an energetic tapestry that's hard to resist.


However, for those yearning for a more serene desert oasis experience, it might be wise to consider Huacachina as a day trip destination rather than a prolonged stay. The enchanting allure of the lagoon, the peaceful dune hikes, and the cultural exploration can be thoroughly enjoyed during the day, allowing you to retreat to a quieter base when the nightlife crescendo begins.


3 people silhouetted at the top of a dune

As a solo traveller who cherishes both adventure and tranquillity, my days in Huacachina were filled with awe and excitement. However, the nocturnal symphony of the desert nightlife did not suit me. Perhaps a nearby town or a more secluded retreat would offer the perfect blend of desert serenity and rejuvenating quietude.


A desert dune view with sand and rocky outcrops

How do you feel about party destinations? Do they have a place in your travel itineraries or are you more like me and seek out more serene settings? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.


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14 Comments


Guest
Jan 20

Marvelous that Peru not only has mountains and ancient history to offer, but a sandy dessert, too. This is totally my environment and I would definitely factor a visit to the oasis when I finally make it to Peru. It's good to know Peru has a bus service for travellers too, similar to the Greyhound in Australia. It just shows how travel-friendly and accommodating the country is.


Carolin | <a href="https://solotravelstory.com/">Solo Travel Story</a>

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Peru has fascinating diversity in history, geography, population, and micro-climates. I was delighted by my journey.

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Guest
Jan 19

I have to confess that I'm a fan of a good love story, like that of the princess, even if it doesn't have a very happy ending!

As well as being a spectacular place, the oasis has lots of fun activities to do, which is a plus for those who stay there.

It must be a very interesting place that combines history with biodiversity! Angela | Blonde Around The World Travel -

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You and me both, Angela. I can't resist a good legend! It was a very different kind of destination for me. I had fun and was intrigued by the oasis but I usually avoid party places -- and I was reminded why.

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I didn't realize Peru has a desert! It really seems the country has a lot of biomes and diversity there. I've always wanted to go sand boarding so that's definitely my adrenaline activity of choice. Then ending with a good meal in town sounds like the perfect day!

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It really is amazing to experience such a diverse landscape from the deserts, mountains, and the thrill of the Amazon. I really got to enjoy a little bit of everything!

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Poor man's Galapagos sounds right up my street. As does the laid back fun vibe of Huacachina. Although I'm leaning towards a dune hike over the more exhilarating activities. The dune buggy tour sounds like a hummer tour I did in Utah which was just as fear inducing. Anywhere with good food is all right with me so I think I'd love it here. And I too would have chosen the scenic, slower, bus ride. What better way to see somewhere new than staring out the window on a relaxing drive?

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I was both exhilarated and terrified! The dune hike was my favourite activity. It better suited my style (and age!)

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Guest
Jan 03

I have never heard of Huacachina before and thanks for letting this interesting location out of the bag. I can certainly relate falling prey to the perils of finding an Oasis in the middle of the desert and expect it to be calm and tranquil but no - it's exactly the opposite. Still, I'd give it a go for two nights. What is travel without the fun and shortcomings #flyingbaguette


Jan - https://flyingbaguette.com/

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I admit to doing little research so I was expecting an oasis of my imagination -- tranquil and calm! It was a bit of a surprise but I really enjoyed the dune buggy

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