There is one place in the world that should never miss from a sand enthusiast’s bucket list: Huacachina, a spectacular natural oasis in Peru surrounded by dunes as high as mountains, just 5km from the town of Ica and about 300km south of the capital Lima. Ica and Huacachina have become must-go destinations for lovers of adventure sports and particularly for anyone who is passionate about sandboarding or dune buggying.
Not only that, but this beautiful place is somewhat of a paradise in the middle of a desert, with a mild climate year round and natural water springs that were once believed to have healing powers.
You get a sense of peace and tranquility driving around this oasis, because there are hardly any vehicles but you can still find plenty of hotels and pubs. Huacachina is renowned among visitors, particularly for the possibility of renting a car called “carro tubular” (“tubular car”) a specific type of dune buggy that allows you to run on these sand dunes at full speed.
How to reach Huacachina
Reaching the oasis from Ica is very simple – wherever you are in town, just hail a taxi (not a tuktuk). The average return fare is 12.0 PEN, but you should be able to negotiate on the price.
A public bus ride from Paracas to Ica is inexpensive and will lasts about 1.5 hours, from there you can grab a taxi and quickly reach Huacachina. If it’s your first time in Peru, we recommend arranging your transportation through a guided tour or on one of the “hop on, hop off” buses that will instead take you directly to Huacachina and allow you to stop in other locations as well.
The best way to reach Huacachina for a day trip is to sign up for a local tour, which commonly include both sandboarding and dune buggy as activities. If you plan to stay more than a day, you can look into either public buses (e.g. Oltursa, Cruz del Sur) or private bus services (e.g. Peru Hop). The former are cheaper, but will drop you off at Ica (from which you’ll need to call a cab), while the latter may be more convenient for tourists as they will pick you up from your hotel, drop you off directly in Huacachina, and also come with a handy English-speaking guide. You should expect your bus ride to last around 5 hours.
Sandboarding experiences that will take you to Huacachina:
Sandboarding in Huacachina
Huacachina is home to some of the largest dunes in South America, hence it quickly became one of the world’s top destinations for sandboarding and sandsledding.
What to wear
- Long sleeved shirt (for the morning and evening)
- Short sleeved shirt (for the afternoon)
- Light weight long trousers
- Closed-toe tennis shoes with socks
- Mouth scarf or foulard
- Eye goggles
While weather in the oasis is generally pleasant, if leaving early in the morning you may want to bring a long-sleeved shirt as it can get chilly. Later in the day, switch to a light t-shirt and don’t forget your sunscreen! When hiking up the dunes, it is a good idea to wear tennis shoes to protect your feet from getting scorched by the hot sand. When sliding down, it is not a bad idea to wear eye goggles (or cheap sunglasses) and a mouth scarf to protect you from sand. Standard sandboarding gear, nothing less, nothing more.
Carro Tubulares – The Ultimate Huacachina Sand Buggy experience
Huacachina takes the experience of sand duning to a whole new level. Just at the entrance to the village you can already spots dozens of these popular tube-shaped vehicles called “carro tubulares” or “carros areneros“. The spanish word for dune buggy, “areneros”, could literally be translated to “for sand”, while “carro tubular” simply means “tubular car”. They accommodate between 6 and 9 people, so you can ride them as a small group. Always bargain on the price. You don’t have to leave a tip for the driver.
When is the best time to go sand buggy in Huacachina?
Early mornings and late afternoons are the best times to go on a sand buggy tour in Huacachina. This is in order to avoid the scorching afternoon sun and desert heat.
Where to stay in Huacachina
If you are planning to spend the night (or several nights) in Huacachina, excellent choice! It is worth to spend at least a few days in this mystical place in order to enjoy everything it has to offer to the fullest.
Eat and drink in Huachacina
Despite its small size, Huacachina offers plenty of restaurants and bars which both locals and tourists like to hit after a long, tiring day in the dunes.