10 Spectacular Ways To Enjoy the Desert Destination of Huacachina, Peru
Huacachina, Perú is not your typical idea of a Latin American destination with small cities heavily surrounded by trees and rainforest, nor is a Peruvian destination with quaint towns like Cusco, or ancient ruins like Machu Picchu, llamas, and slopes so high you have to train your hiking abilities.
Huacachina is in the Peruvian desert! A destination with more similarities to the South of the U.S. and North of Mexico, than to western Peru. The country is surprisingly almost 11% desert, with many wonders to offer such as the three towns Lambayeque, Nasca, and Huacachina.
You may recognize Huacachina from the Apple’s iPhone Xs MAX promo video, which features the Peruvian town that offers unique and spectacular ways to enjoy the desert!
Facts About Huacachina, Peru
Before we dive into the list and get to explore Huacachina in the Peruvian desert, let’s locate it on the map, talk a bit about the weather, and the population there.
Huacachina means “Woman who cries.” Huacca China was a princess who fell in love with a young warrior who died. While she was crying at the place where they met, through her mirror she saw a young man running away. The Peruvian legend has it, she tore her dress, which are now the dunes, and she dropped her mirror, which turned into the lagoon.
Huacachina is a Peruvian town 2 miles (4 kilometers) away from the city of Ica. The city of Ica is 188 miles (304 kilometers), a 4 hour-car ride, away from Peru’s capital, Lima. Ica has a population of 453,947, inhabitants making it the eleventh most populated Peruvian city.
PRO TIP! If you feel like catching a flight as close as possible to Huacachina, the International Airport Capitán FAP Renán Elías Olivera is in Pisco, within the department of Ica. That way you would reduce the 4-hour car ride to 1 hour and 15 minutes. This of course, would be vastly more expensive.
The average weather is warm, during the year the temperature ranges between 59 ºF (15 °C) and 82 ºF (28 °C), and it rarely goes under 54 ºF (12 °C) or over 88 ºF (31 °C). This makes it a great destination to enjoy it in the following 10 spectacular ways!
1. Dune Buggies in Huacachina
Have you ever dreamed of having a Mad Max-like adventure? Sand all around and being able to ride a motorized vehicle in the middle of the desert sounds just like it. Get your sunglasses, some sunblock and a face mask to protect yourself because you’ll be riding a sand buggy in the desert of Huacachina!
In Huacachina you can get a tour in dune buggies through the Peruvian desert, with a guided tour of Huacachina, for as little as 13.45 USD. If you wish the guide to pick you up at your hotel the price increases a bit, but still remains at a very affordable 21 USD.
This specific plan includes a tour guide (but only in Spanish) and a sandboard too!
2. Sandboarding in Huacachina
If you’ve ever tried snowboarding before, sandboarding must sound familiar. With only three hours of your visit to Huacachina you’ll be able to ride the highest dunes of the desert.
Start off by going to the International SandSnow School and book an instructor. Check the appropriate boots and sandboard for you.
Spend one hour practicing in small dunes, before venturing out in the open desert. From Huacachina, they’ll take you in a dune buggy out to the desert, to practice your newly-acquired abilities on the sandboard. In big dunes it doesn’t matter if you’re an experienced sand or snowboarder or a beginner.
They’ll take photos and videos of you surfing (or riding!) down those hills so you can keep the experience alive forever. After time’s up, they’ll take you back to school after getting full of sand in the Peruvian desert!
If this sounds like a plan, 100 USD should be more than enough. While you can book this experience for 64 USD (depending on the time of the year and amount of people going with you), this doesn’t take into account the food and tipping for the dune buggy driver and the instructor.
3. Paragliding in Huacachina
If sandboarding doesn’t seem extreme enough, or, on the other hand, seems like it could get you hurt, you might want to try some Paragliding in Huacachina!
Get some breakfast early and get ready! The tour operators will pick you up at 8 a.m. at your hotel and will take you to some high dunes in the desert. From there, you’ll run up and simply fly—but don’t worry, an experienced pilot will take care of your safety so you won’t need to be an expert at paragliding—and enjoy the wind across your face as you glide through it. The view of the beautiful sand dunes of Huacachina will accompany you all the way until you’re ready to descend.
This tour operator offers this service for 90 USD and offers two 4-to-6-minute flights or falls. Some others offer slightly different packages such as one 15-minute ride which includes a video as well. Icaro Paragliding is one of the most famous paragliding clubs in Huacachina, too, in case you feel like exploring different options.
4. Visiting the Oasis of the Americas
Dune buggies, sandboarding, paragliding. All of these adventures seem so extreme. Vacations don’t necessarily need to be extreme. Not everything in Huacachina is extreme sports. You can visit the beautiful Lagoon in the town, which makes it a true oasis!
The Oasis of The Americas (El oasis de las Américas) is one of the main attractions of Huacachina. This is because it is the biggest Oasis in the Americas, and one of the only natural ones, although now, Peruvian authorities keep the oasis filled artificially. Sadly, though, the Peruvian authorities don’t recommend swimming in it. It’s not toxic, but it’s better not to do so in order not to pollute the water any further.
But what to do if not to enjoy an Oasis swimming in it? You can take a ride in a boat, take a stroll through the pier, and even take a selfie with Huaca China, who, according to the legend, becomes a siren and goes out to sign at night.
5. Visiting the Regional Museum “Adolfo Bermúdez Jenkins”
In Ica you can visit the regional museum Adolfo Bermúdez Jenkins. But why would you like to visit a museum in the desert? Well, keep in mind that Peru is home to the legendary Inca culture, one of the three biggest cultures of the Americas alongside the Mayans (in (Guatemala), and the Aztecs (in Mexico).
The museum is mainly dedicated to the Paracas culture, a smaller tribe than the Incas which was around for 900 years, until the year 200. The museum, however, holds archeological pieces which belonged to the Nasca, Paracas, Ica, Huari and Inca cultures. Some of these pieces are mummies so you’re in for a historical treat in this one!
You can enter the museum for around 2 USD (7.5 nuevos soles) and travel back in time.
6. Visiting the Center of Ica
Ica, The City of the Eternal Sun (La ciudad del eterno sol), is, like many other Latin American cities, full of history and cultural places to visit. In the center of Ica you can find these many architectural beauties.
- The Arms Square (La plaza de armas)
- The Municipal Palace (El palacio municipal)
- The Cathedral of Ica (La catedral de Ica)
- St Francis of Assisi Temple (El templo de San Francisco de Asis)
- The Sanctuary of Luren (El Santuario de Luren)
Each one of these promises to tell you a different story of the history of Ica, a city that is 458 years old. The Spanish conqueror and explorer, Jerónimo Luis de Cabrera y Toledo established the city of Ica in 1563.
7. Watching Penguins in Paracas
Did you think Penguins only inhabited the South Pole? Well, you can find them in Peru!
Paracas is a Peruvian national reserve close to Huacachina, Peru. It is still in the Peruvian desert, 46 miles (75 kilometers) away from Huacachina, one and a half hours away.
In this reserve the Peruvian desert meets the Pacific Ocean. Here you can go and see a lot of fauna. Sea lions, dolphins, Humboldt penguins, flamingos and pelicans, are some of the many different animal species that coexist in Paracas.
Additionally you can take a boat to explore the Ballestas Islands (Las islas ballestas) and watch their virgin lands, occupied only by animals. While you may not disembark, boats can take you close enough to fully appreciate the island’s beauty. These may be two of the most well-invested hours of your life. Some tour operators offer a 5 hour tour picking you up from your hotel in Paracas and taking you back to it after the trip for around 70 USD.
The entrance fee to the National Reserve of Paracas is 5.40 USD (22 soles) for adults and 3.92 USD (16 soles) for kids, but you may only pay in local currency, so be prepared.
FUN FACT! Paracas means “rain of sand.”
8. Visiting the Only Gliptolith Library on Earth
Inside Ica, 17 minutes away from Huacachina lies the only gliptolith museum on Earth. But wait! What is a Gliptolith? This term means “Engraved Stone from Ica.” And in this private museum you can find around 11,000 different gliptoliths with very different engravings including men, birds, leaves, dinosaurs, and some say even, the origins of the cosmos, as ancient men saw it. The most impressive part about the gliptoliths is the clarity of some of their engravings.
You can enter the museum for 10 USD (and 5 USD for kids), explore and try to uncover the secrets of the glipoliths! The recommended visit has a duration of 1:30 to 2 hours.
9. Blowing Your Mind With the Nazca Lines
If you drive southbound for 2:30 hours from Huacachina you’ll still be in the Ica Desert, but you’ll be arriving in Nazca. One of the three towns in the Ica desert. This famous place surely rings a bell. But in case it doesn’t, this place is home to the famous Nazca Lines (correctly named geoglyphs.)
More than 800 lines form 300 geometrical figures and 70 more with designs of different animals, plants and other types of beings. These lines occupy 200 mi2 (517 km2). It is believed that the Nazca civilization drew them more than 1,500 years ago and they have been part of UNESCO’s World Heritage since 1994. The biggest one measures around 328 feet (100 meters)!
A common myth is that these lines are only visible from the air, but that’s not true. You can climb up the hills and dunes that surround them and try to spot them and uncover the mysteries behind them.
You can find tours which offer a 4-hour ride including hikes in the Nazca desert and picking you up from your hotel, for as little as 40 USD.
10. Camping Under The Stars in Huacachina
After a whole day of adventures sandboarding, dune buggying, paragliding, visiting museums or uncovering the secrets of the Inca, Nazca and Paracas civilizations, the best way of ending your day is camping under the stars in the Huacachina desert.
If you weren’t planning on taking your own sleeping bag and tent, don’t worry! There are tours you can get which offer these. Watch the sun setting over the Peruvian desert and let the heat go away to enjoy a chilly night in the desert with a beautiful fireplace to keep you warm. Countless constellations illuminating the beautiful and unpolluted night sky over your head, while the grill heats up and the amazing smell of a BBQ invades your senses, and maybe a guitar tuning up to be the only sound before finally being able to rest all of those adventures away.
If you need to, check out this Vocabulary Guide in order to learn useful terms to camp in Spanish.
Travel to Huacachina With Your Spanish!
Traveling to Huacachina seems wonderful! I for one would love to visit that beautiful and mystic desert!
In order to make your trip to South America a reality sooner, consider learning and speaking Spanish fluently! You’ll be able to earn between $50,000 and $125,000 just by speaking a foreign language alone, according to The Economist. So you can afford as many adventures as you wish, not only roaming throughout Huacachina, the Ica desert, and Peru but also the whole Latin American continent!
Give it a try and sign up for a free Spanish class before booking your trip to Peru (or anywhere else in Latin America). Learning Spanish with our friendly Guatemalan teachers will prove an enriching experience. Trust our 10 years of expertise!
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