Although Peru is best known for its mountains, jungle, and its fascinating Machu Picchu, it also has coastal deserts, sand, and dunes. And one of the best places to appreciate and enjoy Peru’s desert is the Huacachina Oasis. This small town has become a tourist destination par excellence and its visit is one of the best things to do in Peru. Its lush lagoon is surrounded by exotic palm trees, mansions, hotels, and exquisite restaurants. Therefore, together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru, we have prepared an article about this wonderful place.
Get to know this magical corner of Peru in-depth and enjoy everything it offers.
All about the fascinating Huacachina Oasis
- Best activities
- What to bring
- How to get there
- Best time to visit
- What to eat
- Where to stay
- Enjoy safe
Huacachina is the unique natural oasis in all of South America that is surrounded by charming mansions, restaurants, palms, and slender sand dunes. It is located in the middle of a desert in southern Lima and 5 kilometers to the west of Ica city.
1. The Oasis
It is a small lagoon fed by a natural spring, making it the only natural oasis in Latin America, with temperatures around 25 – 30 degrees during the year.
2. The town
It was built around a natural oasis in the middle of the desert as a refuge for the Peruvian upper classes, but today it has become a quintessential tourist destination available to all, with a population that does not exceed 150 residents. The town is formed by ancient mansions, charming restaurants, and cozy lodges, subsisting on the tourist industry for the most part. Thanks to this, you will find a wide variety of travel agencies, too. Today it has become one of the best destinations to enjoy summer in Peru. Without mentioning that it is surrounded by huge dunes that are the main stage for different tourist activities.
3. What’s means Huacachina?
The name of Oasis has two possible derivations of Quechua names. Huaccac Cachi (The one who cries salt). The other one is Huaccacchine (I make you cry). Either way, these two possible meanings derive from the fantastic legend that surrounds this oasis. You will learn about it in the section “History”.
The oasis is located on the Peruvian southern coast, in the Ica political department. Exactly, 307 kilometers from Lima, taking the Panamerican highway heading south (Panamerica Sur) The car trip lasts 04:30 hrs. If you begin the trip from Ica, the car trip will last only 5 minutes directly to the oasis.
In the 60s and 70s, it was fervently believed that the waters of this oasis had healing powers. In this form, Huacachina became a tourist center for Peruvian upper-class people. So, for a long time, the oasis was the resting place of the country’s elite with mansions, and elite restaurants, among others. But now, in the middle of the XXI century, with more amplified purchasing power in Peruvian society, the oasis is home to any Peruvian and foreign visitors wanting to enjoy the sand, beauty, and adventure of the Peru desert. Therefore, receives more tourists in comparison to 40 years ago. Of course, international tourist is not far behind.
A. Legend of Huacachina
At the main entrance to the Oasis, there is a statue of a mermaid and a wishing well, which reminds us of the story that goes that in ancient times, there was a young Inca princess who was extremely beautiful. One day, while walking carefree on the sand, brushing her hair, and looking in a mirror, she was able to discern a hunter, through the mirror reflection. Scared, she began to run away from him, and during his escape, all her dresses fell to the ground to create the sand dunes we see today surrounding the oasis. In the same way, the woman also dropped her mirror, which shattered instantly, and from the pieces, an oasis was formed where she plunged, to hide from man’s sight.
She waited for a large time, and once in a while surfaced to see if the hunter was gone. A certain day, she was surprised when she realized that she no longer had feet, but a huge fin, she had become a mermaid. Since then, legend has it that the mermaid comes out to the bank on full moon nights to make singles fall in love and take them to her lake depth. Definitely, this legend is a point that makes Huacachina Oasis one of the most famous places in Peru.
The oasis is much more popular with young adults looking for an escape from the routine. It is especially for adrenaline junkies and thrill-seekers. But even those who are not interested in these types of activities will find something to enjoy in the same oasis, where they can enjoy sailing over their quiet waters in charming noon. It’s this way that around the oasis, there are numerous adventure activities to take advantage of, like the Dune buggy. But if you have more energy and are looking for the perfect adventure in Peru and its deserts, you can practice climbing the dunes or sandboarding. On the other hand, the lagoon itself is perfect for taking a dip and cooling off from all the heat. Although, there are also rowboats to rent and navigate the lagoon.
One of the activities for which the oasis is quite known is sandboarding. Sandboarding could be considered a variant of snowboarding, the only difference is that instead of sliding on snowy, we slide down sand dunes. And the boards, which you can hire from the Travel Agencies of the town with a guide-instructor previously, are specially designed to slide on the sand.
It is an activity full of fun and suitable for all audiences. Even the little ones can slide aboard if they wish. And depending on your experience on the board, you can enjoy different levels of difficulty. Even if you’ve never stood on two fees. This sport has become a very popular sport, which already exists in other places on a board before, other techniques make the visitor lies face down over the boards to slides, for example, Sandboarding in Paracas is one of them. Either way, as long as you follow the safety guidelines, you don’t have to worry about getting hurt.
2. Dune Buggy
Another popular activity for adrenaline lovers is riding on a Buggy. This tour consists is a wonderful buggy ride through the dunes. You will be able to enjoy a four-wheel drive at full speed over a vast desert and its giant dunes. Get ready for an adrenaline-pumping ride and buckle up. Buggy tours climb to the tops of the dunes and then speed down. Most of these tours last approximately two hours and are fairly accessible.
In general, shifts starting at four in the afternoon are the best. Since the heat is not that strong and there is still enough light to see. Also, many tours within Huacachina tend to combine both buggy tours and sandboarding, making them one of the best things to do in Nazca region. You can ride the buggies to the top of the dunes and save yourself an uphill hike. Then you just throw yourself into your board at full speed.
In case you are not a fan of adventure activities, there are other calmer alternatives. For a more relaxed way to spend the afternoon, you can choose to enjoy the lagoon on a rowboat. You will find that there are boat rental options on the shore of the lake. While it is also a great way to enjoy the oasis if you are traveling with children. And in case you were wondering, you can’t swim in the oasis, unfortunately, it’s prohibited.
4. Climb the dunes
If you are on a tight budget, a hike to the top of the sand dunes can give you incredible views of the place. Enjoying the beautiful and the best sunset in Peru on top of the dunes. It is one of the best things to do. Make sure to bring your camera, hat, water, and sunscreen!
5. One-day trips
Huacachina is conveniently and strategically located near numerous tourist sites in Peru. From the wonderful Paracas National Reserve to the nearby Ballestas Islands. You can even continue your journey to the mysterious Nazca lines. The Oasis can be one of the many stops on your itinerary in Peru. So, you can connect this destination with some other places of great interest.
6. Pisco tour
If you are not an adventure junkie, don’t worry. Huacachina Oasis also offers other equally fun tours. Being 5 kilometers from Ica, you can take advantage and sign up for one of the various tours through the Ica wineries. The Ica region is where the vast majority of Peru’s wine and Pisco comes from. Pisco is a kind of liquor made with grapes, of great flavor, recognized worldwide, and is the national liquor of Peru. For this reason, one of the best things you can do while visiting the Oasis is to take a tour of a nearby vineyard.
You can learn not only how the famous Pisco is made and prepared, but also see the process of Peruvian wine. You will be able to enjoy the afternoon tasting a great variety of Piscos and wines. All while enjoying the wonderful landscapes that surround the wineries. Therefore, being able to enjoy an excellent drink while touring the different wineries is a great way to spend your vacations in Peru. Ica also has some exceptional museums. One of the most interesting is the Regional Museum of Ica. Here you can enjoy a fascinating collection of ceramics, mummies, skulls with trepanning belonging to Paracas and Nazca pre-Inca cultures, and much more.
What to bring
To spend wonderful moments in the oasis and not worry about solar radiation, we believe that it is mandatory to bring these things to the oasis.
- Carry with you Cash, Soles, or Dollars. (There is only one unreliable ATM in all of Oasis Town)
- Light clothing
- Sneakers or tennis
- T. Shirt
- Sweaters for winter (Only as a precaution)
How to get there
As we tell you, the Huacachina Oasis is located 10 minutes from the city of Ica and about 5 hours south of Lima (following the South Panamerican highway) For this reason, getting to the beautiful natural oasis is usually pretty straightforward. In addition, numerous companies depart from Lima to Ica, where they try to provide a direct service to the Oasis from the Central Bus Station of the Peruvian capital.
A. To Huacachina by bus
Buses to the Oasis can be taken from a wide variety of places. You can find them in the central bus stations of different cities like Cusco, Tacna, Arequipa, and other important destinations. Usually, these depart daily to Ica (the closest modern Peruvian city to the Oasis), the trip lasts 07 – 08 hours and costs around 80 Soles per person (one way). Bear in mind that these public services run towards Ica and from there, you will have to take a taxi heading to Huachachina (That means 15 Soles more)
In case you are in Lima, or some of the surrounding cities like Paracas or Nazca, the best way to get there is by bus, which costs around 30 to 40 Soles (one way), and the trip last around 03 hours. The transport services from the Peru capital to Ica are daily and varied. Once in Ica, you can take a taxi from its main square to the oasis, which is only five kilometers. The cost of the taxi is around 5 dollars approximately. Be sure to check out this unprecedented attraction.
B. To Huacachina by plane
Unfortunately, this Oasis is located in the middle of the Peruvian desert and no plane gets to the same attraction. The closest airport is located in the town of Pisco, the airport Capitan FAP Renán Elías Olivera, flights from most Peruvian cities arrive there. The downside is that there are no daily flights to this airport and the cost can start at $50 per person, one way. From the airport, you can take public minivans heading to Ica city (trips 2 hours), the cost is around 30 Soles per person, one way. From Ica, it will be very easy to take a taxi to the Oasis.
Best time to visit
Remember that Huacachina Oasis is located in the middle of the south Peruvian desert, so the weather there is dry and warm, with clear blue skies and hard sun rays the most part of the year. However, between January to Marc, the climate reaches its maximum level (more than 90ª F). On the other hand, between May to August the Peruvian region experiences winter (Its lowest temperature) but, don’t worry, because the temperature usually never drops below 75º F.
As you can see, any moment is the best time to visit the Oasis. This is its differential advantage over other attractions.
Where to eat
From luxurious options to more classic ones, everything can be found in Oasis Town. As for places to enjoy delicious food, we recommend Casa del Bamboo and Wild Olive, Nuna Cocina Bar, and Desert Nights.
1. Desert Nights
An American restaurant located in the middle of the Oasis region. The restaurant offers traditional Peruvian food like Ceviche or Lomo Saltado and American delights like hamburgers and fries. The business is the only one that accepts credit and debit cards as a method of payment.
Address: Huacachina Boulevard, Ica department, Peru.
2. Nuna Cocina Bar
This restaurant combines the best of Peruvian and international gastronomy, with a vegetarian option. The dishes are delicious and inexpensive. It is located right in front of the oasis.
Address: In front of the oasis, Huacachina 11000, Ica, Peru.
3. Casa de Bamboo
The Bamboo House is the cheapest among restaurants on this list. They serve interesting and delicious dishes from Peruvian and International cuisine, even exotic dishes like Curry, stir-fry, or falafel. In the same way, they have a great variety of vegetarian options.
Address: Perotti Avenue w/n, Ica Peru. Next to the Suiza Hostel and in front of the Bananas Hostel.
4. Wild Olive Trattoria & Guesthouse
This fantastic restaurant is a specialist in Italian cuisine, so the Lasagna and the Pizzas are guaranteed. Also, it has a great offer of vegetarian options and is open almost all day, in this sense, they serve breakfast, lunches, and dinner.
Address: Malecón José Picasso Peratta 154, Huacachina resort, Ica Peru.
Where to stay
Being a destination so frequented by tourists, the accommodation options are varied. The Pension Wile Olive is a popular alternative for backpackers. But for more luxurious hotels, the Huacachinero Hotel is a great option with an outdoor pool. We also recommend checking out Hotel Curasi 3-star with comfortable facilities. Our last recommendation will is the Wild Rover Hostel for those who search for cheap, good, and nice lodges.
And being so close to the city of Ica, you can also choose to stay in this city. Both sites are only a 10-minute drive away. Keep in mind that Huacachina is in the middle of a popular tourist route, that connects Lima, the vineyards of Ica, Nazca lines, the Paracas National Reserve, Ballestas Islands, and Arequipa. So from there you can take advantage and visit these destinations.
Huacachina is a town very sure. Although there are many restaurants, discos, and bars that open until late at night (Even, though some of them work until 5:00 am), its streets, streets, and the main square are calm, well-illuminated, and secure. As you can see, the Oasis has a long and active nightlife (Due to its condition as a tourist destination) for its main client, the tourist. Therefore, the local municipality always makes patrols and police available 24 hours.
Regarding the adventure tours like Sandboarding or Dune Buggy, the tour operators located in the oasis town that offer these kinds of services, include guides-instructors for your security. Besides, every tour includes an hour of instruction before the adventure in the same sand dunes in Huacachina. For this reason, you rest assured about the services and locals in the Oasis.
Please note that there is only one ATM in the entire town. But the vast majority of accommodations and restaurants accept credit and debit cards.
“FAITH IS AN OASIS IN THE HEART WHICH WILL NEVER BE REACHED BY THE CARAVAN OF THINKING”
As you can see, this wonderful place is one not to be overlooked. Especially if you plan to go through places like Nazca, Paracas, Ballestas, or Ica. We hope together with the experts from Machu Travel Peru to have explained the guide manual 2023 of the Oasis in all detail. We believe that the best way to get to know it is with an expert travel guide who will accompany you to discover this fascinating place. If you want to start organizing your trip to this beautiful oasis, you can consult with our qualified advisors. They will be happy to help you make the trip of your dreams come true.
Peru has so much to offer, it can be hard to know where to start. With many years of experience in the tourism sector, Machu Travel Peru is happy to help with anything regarding your trip to Machu Picchu and any tours around it. Make your Machu Picchu experience an unforgettable one!