Huacachina, Peru’s desert oasis, is famous for its sandboarding. The whole town is built around adventure activities, most of them taking place on the dunes. On offer are sandboarding, sand-skiing, sand-sledding, dune buggy rides and even paragliding!
As thrill-seekers ourselves, our sole motivation for visiting Huacachina was to get our blood pumping on one of the sandboarding experiences that the town is famous for.
Choosing a Sandboarding Tour in Huacachina
You will find lots of people approaching you around Huacachina trying to sell tours on the street. There are signs up which advise you not to buy from these touts as what they are doing is illegal. It can be difficult to make your way through the town and avoid these touts so keep a good pace when walking and try to be polite!
After making our way through the many tour touts, we stumbled across what can only be described as an alpine ski boot room located in the desert town. Dito Sand Xsports shop has a real French Alps vibe to it and it is easy to spot because of a tree, which extends out of the centre of the shop and pokes out the front of the building making it stand out from the rest. It is also right next to the famous Wild Rover Hostel, a well known Irish chain in Peru.
Standing in the shop almost felt like a home away from home. Both Harry and I ski and snowboard regularly so this tour came at the perfect time to fill the void that we were very much missing! Upon arriving at the office, we met and spoke with the lovely Rossana, who talked us through the different tours that we could do, as well as giving us a little background about the company.
We were super impressed to find out that Dito Sand Xsports was founded by a 4-times Sandboarding World Champion! Dito has over 25 years of experience in the sport and was also able to transfer his skills to snowboarding. He actually became one of the top 10 snowboarders in South America – something that blew our minds!
We had never thought about a top snowboarder coming from a desert so that was super cool. After hearing this story, we couldn’t help but feel inspired and also reassured that we were in the best hands. We couldn’t wait to get started! Huacachina is definitely better known for its sandboarding, so we were surprised to be given the option to sand ski, especially when we hadn’t realised this was an option! Skiing is both of our stronger skill out of the two, however, we had our hearts set on the sandboarding that Huacachina is known for.
Did you know? You can also try sandboarding in Trujillo, Peru!
Sandboarding or Sand Skiing?
Eventually, we agreed that to get the full experience, we would try both. Harry (the better snowboarder out of the two of us) opted for the boarding whilst I opted to ski. Rossana was really helpful in advising us about the difficulty of the sports and gauging our ability through questions. Once we were happy with our decision, we tried on the boots (the exact same ones you get when you’re in the snow!), fitted our boards and skis with the help of our guide Aldahir, and we were ready to go!
The fitting of the boots, skis and/or board can be made upon your first visit to the shop. If you have booked online in advance, the team advise that you turn up around an hour to half an hour before the tour leaves. The trip begins mid-afternoon at around 15:30, which allows for the desert heat to cool a little. We had taken a walk up the dunes in the morning and it really was heat like no other, so we couldn’t have been happier to avoid wearing big boots at the hottest point of the day!
What really drew us to Dito Sand Xsports was that, unlike other companies in Huacachina, they start slightly earlier than their competitors and offer a 30 minute training period on the sand dunes located close to the shop. Sandboarding and sand skiing are completely different from their snow-based counterparts and we found it much more difficult to turn or carve than we were used to. Unlike the latter, you also have to wax down the board or skis before every run.
If you happen to be suckers like us and watched videos from the professional GoPro YouTuber’s of Sandboarding beforehand, you may labour under the idea that this sport looks easy. You will quickly find that this is not the case! That being said, sandboarding in Huacachina is still an absolute blast and great fun.
Our Experience Sandboarding and Sand Skiing in Huacachina
After meeting the rest of the group at the office you take a short walk to the closest sand dune with your equipment, which feels like a workout in itself, as walking on sand is never easy! Our group was made up of 3 others and we had 2 guides for the 5 of us, which seemed to work perfectly (this may vary by season, but I believe the maximum group size is capped by buggy capacity so that would be groups of 8).
By this point, the weather started to cool down a lot as the afternoon cloud swept over and we were so grateful! During the practice session, we would each take it in turns to walk up the dune and ride down the small slope. It’s here that we were each given a stick of wax for our equipment and shown how after each descent, we would need to rub the wax over the bottom of our skis or board and then rub the sand (kind of like exfoliating) against the wax until it no longer stuck. You could either do this with your hands or put the equipment on and shuffle around a little. At this point, our guides gave us much-needed tips on how best to tackle the slope. I think the best advice was ‘just go for it’!
You can’t help but feel a little nervous when you first tip yourself off the edge of the dune, but it is also an amazing feeling once you have. Our guides told us to try a few turns but not too many as this would make us lose our momentum and stop us from getting fully down the slope. Once you begin to slow too much you ultimately just start sinking into the sand and it is hard to get going again!
We had 3 runs to practice, but we were told that if we fell, we could do another. Practice makes perfect after all! With each practice run we hiked up a little higher, so be prepared, this activity is hard work and, WARNING, you will get very sweaty! As if being super sweaty isn’t bad enough, the sand will stick to you and get everywhere!
I highly recommend dressing appropriately for the tour. We would suggest loose-fitting clothing or typical sportswear, avoid any heavy clothing. You will need a long thick pair of socks for the boots and we found having shorts with pockets was really handy to keep our phones in.
At around 16:30, we heard the roar from the buggies start as other tours started to depart. It was then that we headed over to our own orange dune buggy, for what turned out to be one of the highlights of the tour. Up and down, side-to-side and over the dunes, it was like we were on a rollercoaster — it was so much fun!
We recommend sitting at the back because you get thrown around a little bit more than you would at the front (for all you thrill-seekers out there)! Honestly, you come out of your seat a few times and there were occasions I thanked god for the seatbelts securing us! Our guide explained that we would stop at 4-5 different places before heading back to overlook Huacachina to try and catch the sunset.
The Real Deal!
After stopping at the top of the large dunes, you begin to wax down your board or skis ready for the first run. This was it, time to turn practice into magic! One guide waited at the top, encouraging us and giving the go-ahead whilst the other guide went down and stopped halfway. Here he would capture you on the GoPro (to share with your fans at home) with footage of you either with a face-full of sand or effortlessly ‘carving’ down the dune like a professional. Whatever style you decide to go for, this is a great memory to have and it’s good fun watching it back.
We were impressed to see that we were given a helmet for extra protection as many of the other companies don’t offer this. Falling on the sand can be tough! If you don’t feel comfortable once you are at the top of the sand dune there is no pressure from the guides to board or ski down. You can simply take in the wonderful views and watch others in the group have a go at it. Or even better, grab yourself a sand sled and ride head or feet first. We highly recommend using this technique as you don’t need to worry about turning and you eventually come to a stop when the dunes level out.
The sit and ride technique is a lot easier than sand skiing or sandboarding so definitely more enjoyable if you are looking for a more chilled run. Make sure to check with your guide before leaving the office that there will be spare sand sleds packed in the buggy.
We went on to visit a couple more spots around the dunes which were the perfect length and steepness for a good run. Some we would even repeat a few times which really helped us to work on improving each go. Another great plus of Dito Sand Xports is that they take you away from the crowds and to their own sought out spots on the dunes, which is a huge bonus. You get the dune all to yourselves with no queues! After all, there is plenty of sand to go around.
When we had all perfected our style down the dunes, the guide Aldahir took GoPro videos following us down on our run. he footage had a really professional feel to it which was another reason we were so glad we went with Dito Sand Xports. At this point, the weather took a slight turn and it started to rain. Whilst this was a relief to cool us down and make us feel less sweaty, it meant that it was a little harder to ski or sandboard. The rain made the sand a little stickier, meaning it was harder to glide through, however, with the help from our guides, they made sure we were in the best place to suit the weather and mapped out the best route for us to take down.
Once you have enjoyed an amazing couple of hours exploring the sand dunes in the buggy and on the board or skis, you will start to make your way back to the top of Huacachina where (fingers crossed) you can catch an amazing sunset. The sky can be beautiful coupled with the endless views of sand. This is almost a backpacker rite of passage and there seems to be a really nice atmosphere among everybody who is doing the same. It is a great way to end to the day.
Unfortunately for us and many others travelling during the wet season, a clear sky is not guaranteed every day so we settled for a subtle pink glow, which was still beautiful to watch. Our driver also let us take photos with the buggy which was a great chance to climb all over it. Standing on the roof was our favourite place to pose! Sunset over and it was time to head back to the shop to hand back our boards and equipment.
Sand Skiing & Sandboarding in Huacachina: Our Verdict!
Once we got back, we had the chance to get the pictures and videos from the guides. They recommend taking a memory card with you, as it is very quick and simple to plug into the laptop at the shop and copy the footage over. If you do not have one there is no need to panic as they can also email them over to you.
We had a blast that afternoon and were pleased that we went with Dito Sand Xsports. The boards and equipment seemed to be well looked after and in good condition. The guides were also helpful, both spoke broken English but they were easy enough to understand. They also gave the trip some life by trying to make it as fun as possible (which is always what you want from a tour like this)!
Sand Skiing & Sandboarding in Huacachina: What You Need to Know!
- The booking cost includes the ski & board hire and the equipment to go with it (boots, poles, and helmets), 2 guides who are with you for the entire tour, 30 min practice runs on ‘beginner slopes/dunes’, buggy ride, GoPro footage and the entrance fee (each person is charged around 5 soles to pass through the checkpoint at the entrance of the dunes).
- We recommend booking in advance to guarantee your spot and remember to head to the shop early to get your equipment fitted.
- Be honest about your level and experience of boarding or skiing. This is essential to make sure you enjoy the activity! Although I have spent a few days snowboarding before and feel confident within the sport, I am really glad I chose to sand ski. I am much more experienced at skiing and with it being harder than on the sand, I would have really struggled boarding. If you are looking to board and you are a beginner, then we would recommend the sand sled experience.
- This activity is best done when it is not raining. However cloudy weather is ideal for keeping you cool.
Sand Skiing & Sandboarding Itinerary
The meeting time is 15:00. This is when you will collect your gear and head to the practice slopes. There will be 30 minutes to practice, so listen carefully and remember this is nothing like snow so be patient! At 16:00 you will have roughly 2 hours of driving around in between going down the dunes on boards to skis before heading back for sunset between 18:00 – 18:30. After sunset, you’ll head back to the shop around 19:00 when the tour will end.
What You Should Bring:
- Sun protection – Do not underestimate the power of the sun in Huacachina, even if there are clouds.
- Confidence and enthusiasm – This is a really fun activity but it can also be challenging.
- Drinking water
- GoPro/Camera if you have one – There are plenty of photo opportunities and you don’t have to rely on the guide photos/videos.
- Memory card – For guide photos and videos.
- Wear loose-fitting clothing.