Leaving Lima, Zoe and I were in desperate need of some bright blue skies — and let’s face it — some silly backpacker fun. We found our salvation in the tiny desert town of Huacachina. And I’m not kidding about the tiny.
As of the 1999 census, Huacachina had a whopping 115 residents and can be strolled around in ten minutes or less. Luckily, the place is pretty easy to access thanks to the nearby transportation hub of Ica, only a 7 sole ($2.50) cab ride away. Huacachina functions primarily as a resort town getaway for residents of Ica and tourists both domestic and foreign. While most of the unassuming buildings are lodging, travel agencies, or restaurants, on our inaugural stroll around the lagoon we did stumble upon what would surely be in the running for World’s Quaintest Library.
Within moments of arrival in Huacachina we had signed up for the town’s most popular attraction — sunset dune buggying and sandboarding tours. While filing into the Transformer-reminiscent vehicles, we noticed the rest of our group was intentionally ignoring the front two seats. We did no such thing.
As soon as we pulled away from the town and edged over the top of the dune, we were in another world where there was nothing but sand for as far as the eye could see. I was immediately reminded of the bizarre sand dunes of Mui Ne, Vietnam — the only other place on Earth I’ve seen such a phenomenon.
After a series of shriek-inducing twists and turns and roller-coaster like ups and downs, we pulled over in what seemed to be, quite literally, the middle of nowhere. Here, we admired the endless rolling hills of sand and the far away hints of Ica beyond. And took pictures. Lots and lots of silly pictures.
I would have been pretty thrilled with two hours of zooming around at our seemingly-crazed drivers’ whims and making cheerleader-style human triangles, but there was yet another activity on the horizon — sandboarding. This downhill adventures activity is surprisingly similar to its snow-based cousin. Which I am coincidentally also terrible at.
So how did we do? I think I can best answer that question with a video, shot with my brand new GoPro. You guys ask, I deliver.
Music by Kate Boy
I was shocked what a workout it all was! I admit that after a few runs standing upright, I got a little rattled by the injuries others in the group were starting to sustain — sandburns, bumped heads, and soon-to-be-bruised bodies, and I started going down sledding-style while laying on my front and digging my feet into the sand to slow myself down when I picked up too much speed. It was pretty glamorous looking.
Once we were all sandboarded (and screamed) out, we made our way back towards town under the shroud of a stunningly pink and purple sunset. We were bumped and bruised and had sand in places we hadn’t known existed, and yet I couldn’t remember the last time I had had so much fun. Zoe summed up the outing perfectly: “This is isn’t even over yet and I already want to do it again!”
The next morning, we lounged around the hostel pool and discussed what to do with the rest of our time in town. We were on a tight schedule due to our looming Inca Trail reservation — just three days and two nights — but simply couldn’t turn up the chance to take a tour of nearby Ica’s vineyards. Peru certainly isn’t known for its wine, but considering my cahoots with all things quirky, I’m more likely to go for a tasting in Cambodia than Napa, anyway.
So we set off for a two-hour tour of Ica’s wineries.
Our first stop was at El Catador, where we were given a tour of the wine and pisco making process before being ushered into a tasting room. Heads up to the sugar averse — and what the heck is wrong with you, anyway? — Peruvian wines are sweet. Zoe and I frequently remarked that we wishes we had some ice cream to go with the syrup we seemed to be tasting, a joke that only got funnier on our second round. Meanwhile, our guide was unintentionally hilarious. When asked if one of the bottles he was pouring us was popular around Peru, he grimaced. “This?” he shook his head, “This is not a good wine.”
Unfortunately our day went downhill from there, as we realized that we had not joined the winery tour that we had been sold but rather a mind-numbing mini-van tour of Ica’s dusty sights. Luckily we had had quite a few shots at that point, which helped us get through what we would hence refer to simply as The Hostage Situation. Even more luckily, our hostel happily handed back the 30 soles ($11US) we had paid for the tour upon our return.
Huacachina was the perfect stopover on our journey through Southern Peru. While we had one more day of coastal adventures ahead of us (stay tuned!) I was already sad to leave this peculiar place in the desert.
Where I stayed: Banana’s Adventures
Where I ate: At Banana’s Adventures and at nearby hostel Desert Nights
How I got there: We took a Cruz Del Sur bus for the four hour ride from Lima to Ica, and I scored big time by snapping up the online sale seats ahead of time — less than $7US each! From Ica to Huacachina we paid 7 soles ($2.50US) for a ten minute cab ride.
In addition to the local sandboarding, you can use Huacachina as a base to visit many of the South Coast area’s attractions — the Ballestas Islands of Paracas, the Nazca Lines of Nazca, and the wineries of Ica.
The sand boarding looks amazing! I love the video; the whole day looks so fun. It’s a shame about the wine tour, but the previous day looks as though it more than makes up for it! Such cool photos, too.
Thanks Eve! It was definitely a net win overall 🙂
I just wrote about Huacachina last week! wasn’t it just SO much fun!! 🙂
Great timing, Shannon! Absolutely loved it.
ohhhhhhh! I want to sand surf!!!
Just thought of this suggestion…can you please give phonetic spellings of the places you go…because I’m frequently puzzled, including how to say Huacachina. I’m guessing wa ka cheena, but I took French so…who knows?
You are spot on in your guess! But yes, I should add that in!
Sandboarding looks SO fun!! I never made it while I was there 🙁
(PS. you got a sort-of shout out in my interview with PADI… they edited names out and I wasn’t allowed to link, but that’s allllllll you at the Kona manta ray dive part 🙂 Thanks for helping to fill my bucket list! xo)
You go girl! Just read the whole interview, what a fantastic opportunity. I keep getting contacted by people at PADI but it never seems to go anywhere :/
Pretty sure I should just give in now and book a trip to Peru. While sandboarding looks kinda terrifying (I’d totally be one of those people getting pretty hurt somehow), I’m also pretty sure I want to do.
I’m already planning to wind back through Huacachina on this trip 🙂 It’s just way too cool!
COOL post! And I love your GoPro video, I’ve just gotten a GoPro myself and it is great to see what it can do – I look forward to more GoPro videos from you 🙂
Thanks Lily! I have a few fun ones coming up. The quality coming from such a little thing just really amazes me!
Loved the video! From the looks of it, sand surfing seems even more difficult from its snowy cousin!
I only tried that once many many years ago, and my greatest memory of it is the bruised butt I had the day after 🙂
UHM JEALOUS this looks amazing!
Sounds like the perfect spring break trip for some NOLA teachers…
This looks like such an amazing place! I was just in Vietnam and unfortunately didn’t get to visit Mui Ne, so maybe I can make it over here to make up for it! The sandboarding looks so awesome. Great photos and great video!!
Thanks Casey! Bummer about missing Mui Ne (it was one of my favorites) but this will totally help make up for it!
Oh Huacachina looks so much fun! Now I’m bummed that I missed it! Great video by the way!
You can always make your way back! And thanks 🙂
That little town looks so quaint!! I’m right here with you… I would have gladly hopped in the front seat of those sand buggies — anything roller-coaster like excites me. I would have struggled with sandboarding too but you make it look fun to try anyway!
I am wowed by the endless sand dunes, great, great photos.
Thanks so much Kristen! It was pretty easy to get great photos here — the lighting, the setting, everything was fantastic!
Huacachina looks sooo pretty! That buggy ride and sandboarding looks awesome. I love the fact that you now have a GoPro! Zoe rocks for giving it to you as a present!
I know! I was really blown away. I’m a lucky girl!
Ahhhh this looks like so much fun! I’d totally be all over this with you. I actually was thinking you DID look like an experienced boarder before I read the text and had only watched the video. Could have fooled your readers 😉
The main problem there would be that snowboarding requires being COLD. Having grown up in Upstate New York I feel I’ve fulfilled a lifetime of winter requirements. Sunshine from here on out, please 🙂
For a third choice, You can also dune buggy thru the sand dunes and sand board in Cumbuco Brazil… Should be on everybody’s list…… so much fun
I will definitely keep that in mind for when I eventually make it to Brazil!
I’ve been doing a blinding amount of research on Peru for my fast-approaching and under-planned trip, and I have to tell you, your post brought it to life! Beautiful site design, original photos but interesting content, angles and post-process, relevant info that I actually wanted to know AND it looked fun!!! Great job 😀
Wow, thank you Teri! What a lovely comment to start my day. I adore Peru! Hope you have an amazing trip.
This looked like such a fun trip. I hope to follow in your footsteps there very soon. Thank you for a great story.
You’re so welcome, John! This was a great travel memory.
Hi Alex,just came across this nice post,we were in Huacachina in November and loved it too! Sandbuggy is excellent and we also did the pisco tour with a taxi guide and that was great – he knew a lot, we visited Tacama, el Catador and Lazo Bodega. El Catador was the most touristic place probably… their wine is indeed too sweet! 🙂
I loved this little town in the desert! What a cool travel destination — one of the best spots in Peru!