After leaving Paracas, we went to Huacachina, a tiny village just west of Ica. The name comes from a Quechua word that means hidden lagoon and its famous for its oasis in the middle of the desert in the Ica region. All around the lagoons there are hotels, bars and restaurants.
Some other people, instead, think that the name of this place comes from two Quechua words, Wakai and China, that mean crying lady. In fact, there is a legend behind this unique place in the Pisco province. The legend narrates that the there was princess in love with a handsome prince who suddenly died and she cried so much that her tears created the lagoon. While she was bathing in her own tears, a hunter tried to attack her and as she ran away her mantle flew behind her, creating the sand dunes. Another variation to this is that she saw the prince in the reflection in the lagoon and got so scared that she ran away. After this, the princess turned into a mermaid and this is the reason why so many people are attracted to this place.
Things to see and do in Huacachina:
- Go sand boarding
- Go dune bugging (only if you are going sand boarding)
- Watch the sunset over the oasis
- Take a pedaling boat across the lagoon
- Stay at Bananas Adventure
- Join a litter picking project
- Discover nice food places
The number one reason why people decide to visit Huacachina is to go sand boarding. There are tours leaving all day and they last approximately two hours. With the one we took, we were collected outside our hostel and drove us with a buggy through the sand dunes. Once on top, you get to do 4 or 5 descents on the dunes – depending on the size of your group.
What to bring with you: even though it’warm, it’s good to wear a long sleeve top and long trousers/leggings to avoid getting burnt on the board or the sand. The most important thing you shouldn’t forget is sunglasses and something to cover your mouth, to protect yourself from the sand. Even wearing sunglasses, there will be sand flying into your eyes, so if like me you are wearing contact lenses make sure you have something you can rinse them with, after you are done.
Another very popular activity in Huacachina is dune bugging. Although I wasn’t too crazy about this, our hostel offered a combined sand boarding and dune bugging tour, and so we took it. The buggies make a crazy noise and by the smell they produce you realise how much they must be polluting the air. However, there is no other way to get on top of the dunes if you want to go sand boarding.
Even though I usually like more active things, my favourite thing to do in Huacachina was definitely sitting by the lagoon by myself and watch the sunset over the oasis. There is something magical about this place, where all people look happy and you can watch them dancing, singing or crossing the lagoon on pedalling boats. We didn’t get one, as we felt like our days were already full enough with activities, but people seemed to really enjoy it.
If you go to Huacachina, the place to be is Bananas Adventure. We weren’t planning to stay there, as it was a bit more expensive than other hostels in the area. However, in Paracas, we met Laura and Logan, who we ended up getting on very well and they were going to stay there, so we decided to follow them. Not only! As Peru had been cheaper than the other countries we had visited to that point, we went for the superior private room!
The room was 200 soles, which is approximately €50, but it was one of the best rooms we stayed in during the entire trip.
Unfortunately, litter in Peru and most places in South America is a major issue. In Huacachina, there is an NGO based in Tierra Prometida, a nearby community and local school, that is in charge of organising daily litter picking events in the oasis and all along the sand dunes, with the support of local business and local people, but also a lot of travellers and backpackers. Besides organising litter picking events, this NGO also tries to raise awareness about the litter problem in the area through social media and talks in local restaurants and hostels and they are always looking for new volunteers. We came across them through Workaway, but your hostel should know about them.
Being a backpackers’ destination, there are lots of nice restaurants, bars and other places to get food in Huacachina, with one of the biggest variety of vegetarian food I came across in all of South America, despite the dimensions of this town.
My favourite places to eat where Banana’s Adventure, Casa Bamboo and Wild Olive.
Important things you need to know
There are no ATMs in Huacachina, so you should withdraw money before you go there. If you don’t, no need to worry!
The closest place with an ATM is Ica and you can get a taxi to Ica and back fro 15 soles, approximately €4 (or 10 soles one way).
To get from Paracas to Huacachina, we took a private van for 20 soles.
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