It was a cold and surprisingly damp, morning. You know how you the air gets right after a big thunderstorm? It felt similar to that…the only thing was, we were in a Peruvian Desert.
In an attempt to beat the sun, we had woken up around 5AM. You see, we were in a magical place and had to get the light just right in order to capture its beauty.
We were in Huacachina, Peru’s famous oasis town.
Peruvian legend says the oasis formed when a beautiful princess was caught bathing in the waters by a local hunter. In her own shame, she dove deep into the water where she wept out of humiliation. Her tears make the oasis what is it today, but her humiliation has continued to curse the land, turning everything to sand. They say she still lives in the bottom of the oasis if any are brave enough to dive in.
Today, it serves as a tiny resort town for locals and tourists to come frolic along the massive sand dunes.
Our Morning In The Sand Dunes
To continue our story, the fog had rolled over the oasis during the night and it remained as dawn came. As we hiked to the top of closest dune we got the chills, not something you would imagine occurring in the desert. The sand on top was cold from the night air, but as your foot sank, the sand became much warmer. The wind off the backside of the dune was chilling, but it was also blowing the fog away, making its howl bittersweet.⠀
When we reached the top of the dune, which are huge, the fog wasn’t completely gone. To avoid the wind, we did our best to dig ourselves into the sand. For roughly two hours, and way after sunrise, we watched waves of fog drift in and out of the oasis, over the sand dunes, and into oblivion. It was a chilling and calming experience.⠀
Of course, the fog lifted and we snapped some great pictures, but I’m glad the fog was there. It made the experience more than just a “copy and paste” picture from Instagram, which has turned this little town into an internet legend.
Funny enough, it only took us about 2 minutes to run down the same sand dune that took us an hour to climb up!
Sand Boarding & Dune Buggying The Day Away
As the sun warmed up this little oasis town, we spent the day doing what everyone who visits Huacachina should do: sand boarding and dune buggying.
I’m not a huge fan of roller coasters, but this was awesome!
Our driver picked us up in front of our hotel where we were joined by others on the tour. The town is tiny, so walking from one side to other takes less than 10 minutes. However, the town is packed with tour buses and dune buggies, so driving from one side to other takes 20 minutes. Luckily, we were in the dunes pretty quickly where all the fun began!
All the dune buggy drivers are complete pros. They do this five or six times every day, so they have the patterns and “trails” in the dunes all picked out for maximum excitement.
Once you are in the dunes, you’ll whip around, up, and down some small, large, and very steep sand dunes. There are a few photo spots where the drivers all meet up and you can jump out and snap some pictures of the vast emptiness that makes up the desert. Off in a distance you can see large desert mountains and the city of Ica.
After that, it’s off to the sand boarding spots! Unless you bring your own gear, you’ll be handed pretty basic sand boards, think a piece of wood with wax on the bottom, so don’t expect to carve up the side of these mountains.
It is still a blast though! Lying on your stomach and going down these hills will give you quite the thrill. You start on small hills and then gradually get larger until you get to the biggest one, which had to be at least 30 stories tall! By this time, you’re pretty comfortable on the board and can truly enjoy the experience.
TIP: If you get scared riding down, just dig your feet into the sand to slow yourself down. I definitely had to do this a couple times!
When The Sun Goes Down
Being a resort town, especially known for its hostels, Huacachina likes to party.
Nearly every night you’ll find some bar cranking out music until the wee hours of the night. For some, this is heaven, for others this is horrible. If you want to get a full nights rest, I suggest finding a hotel a good ways away from the bars that surround the middle of the oasis. If you want to party, most bars don’t really pick up until around 11PM or so but they go until about 4AM, so bring your dancing shoes!
The restaurants around the oasis make some excellent food. From pizza and pasta to french toast and pancakes, they have a bit of everything. Most of them also tout a hefty happy hour menu too, so if you want to sip on a Pina Colada, you won’t be the only one! This is one of the rare small Peruvian towns that take credit cards, so don’t spend your Sols here, just swipe the plastic.
TIP: It does get cold at night, so be sure to wear a jacket and pants. We were running around in our shorts and t-shirts and by 8PM we were freezing
During our time in Peru, Huacachina was the one place that truly took our breath away (other than struggling to breath during the Inca Trail). The pictures you see online truly don’t capture the aura and beauty of this hidden gem.
While it isn’t close to either Lima or Cusco, it is worth the effort to go see when in Peru. You will have a blast on the dune buggies and sand boarding experience during the day, eat well in the evening, and enjoy the night life surrounding this tourist town no matter when you go.
However, if you go, you must, and you have to promise me that you will hike to the top of the dune closest to the town and enjoy the sunrise. It was as calming and relaxing as any island or serene beach I’ve ever seen.
TO SEE SOME OF THE DUNE BUGGY AND SAND BOARDING FUN IN HUACACHINA, CHECK OUT THIS VIDEO: