Updated January 14th, 2019.
Imagine an oasis in the middle of the desert with massive sand dunes all around that doubles up as one of the coolest backpacker hangouts in Peru! Welcome to Huacachina… where adventure, partying and relaxation delight!
Just half an hour from the city of Ica, the ‘oasis’ has become a popular resort destination for locals and travellers alike. Despite its popularity – whether you’re young or old, newbie backpacker or hardened traveller, it’s hard not to like the laid-back charms of Huacachina.
Head off into the dunes in a sand buggy for a crazy sand boarding experience or just climb the dunes in the early evening and watch the crimson sunset looking down onto the perfect palm-tree fringed oasis.
There are also trips to nearby wineries and pisco distilleries that will have you feeling merry in the early afternoon, or how about a visit to the nearby Islas de Ballestas to see penguins and seals at play? After a fun-packed day, head back to your lively backpacker hostel for a BBQ and a few more Chilcanos (pisco cocktails).
Where to stay in Huacachina?
The town is small and there are several hostels that are all within walking distance of each other.
Our pick: We stayed at Bananas Adventure Hostel which had a great atmosphere, friendly staff and a cool set up. Backpackers hang out around the small pool during the day and chat by the outdoor bar in the evenings – it’s a social kind of place and many people book tours to the sand dunes or wine trips as part of an accommodation package. The rooms are decent and the whole stay is very good value.
Check out more hostels in Huacachina on Booking.com.
Things to do in Huacachina
The number one adventure in Huacachina that is not to be missed! For just 30 soles ($10 USD!) you can book a sand-boarding tour from your hostel. The tours take place in the late afternoon / early evening when the heat of the day has died down and the sand won’t burn your feet!
The trip lasts three hours and may just be the most fun you’ve had since you were a kid! You’ll head to the dunes on a dune buggy… which is all part of the adventure, as you are tossed from side to side teetering of sand cliffs and praying that the roll cage will save you.
Your driver then deposits you at various height dunes, starting small to big (the last one is huge!) and you just… go! No training, no helmet or knee pads, it’s just you and the board! Whether you choose to stand up to slide down or go head first on your stomach – you’ll end up going faster than you anticipated! It is a little scary and so much fun!
Wine and Pisco Tours can be booked from your hostel (approx 30 soles) and you’ll spend an afternoon sampling local Peruvian liquor, Pisco, and a whole load of sweet Peru wines! To be honest, you won’t learn that much about how the pisco is actually made – but you are guaranteed to get a little tipsy and have a fun day with some very entertaining tour guides!
The town of Pisco (where Pisco originates) is just an hour away from Huacachina and the famous cocktail, Pisco Sour (made of Pisco, lime juice, syrup, egg white and angostura bitters) is obviously a must try whilst in the area!
Visit Islas de Ballestas
From Huacachina, you can take early morning trips to this ‘Galapagos Islands of Peru’ where you’ll see seals, penguins and various other seabirds. Trips leave around 5 am from Huacachina and get back around 2 pm, with a boat ride taking around an hour and a half. You won’t get off the boat during the trip and it’s more of a ‘looking from the boat’ kind of experience – but a pleasant one – just make sure you haven’t done the wine tour the day before!
Where to go next?
Paracas: This beach-resort town has a decent beach, some great hostels, a national park and an elongated head museum! (You have to see it to believe it.) It’s super easy to visit Islas Ballestas from here. If you’re heading back to Lima, it’s a great place to chill out for a few days by the sea.
Nazca: Famous for the mysterious ‘Nazca Lines’, there’s little else to do in this town apart from going to see the lines! You can either climb to the top of a rickety viewing tower to see a few of the shapes or take a small light aircraft to see the lines in all their glory. Prices start around $70 USD for a flight and the lines are around one hour outside of Nazca Town. Around two hours from Huacachina.
Cusco: The ancient Inca capital in the mountains is the cultural heart of Peru and is not to be missed on a backpacker trip to Peru! Gateway to the mystical ruins of Machu Picchu and a beautiful colonial city to explore with great restaurants and a rich culture. An overnight bus of 17 hours from Huacachina.
Arequipa: The white city is just an overnight bus ride away – around 10 hours. You’ll find great restaurants, nightlife and opportunities for trekking in the breathtaking Colca Canyon.