IS HUACACHINA WORTH VISITING? A GUIDE TO PERU’S DESERT OASIS

Huacachina is a place like no other. Mountainous dunes surround a town built around a calm desert oasis. It's a place where you'll find incredible sunsets, see dune buggies flying through the air, and hear the screams of backpackers sandboarding down dunes - all topped off with some of the wildest nights out in Peru.

IS HUACACHINA WORTH VISITING?

Some people may ignore Huacachina on their travels through Peru as it’s developed a bit of a reputation, but we think it’s worth the trip, especially if you haven’t seen an oasis before.

 

And the best part about it is you only need a whistle-stop tour to do it all.

 

While not the most cultural experience in Peru, it’s a unique place. Being surrounded by sand dunes the size of small mountains and some of the best sunsets you will ever see are two big reasons to go.

 

The town caters specifically to backpackers with wild parties and even crazier adventure activities on offer.

 

If you are looking catch some serious air in a dune buggy, sandboard down some of the tallest dunes in South America and party the night away at some of the craziest hostels in Peru then yes it’s definitely worth it.

HOW MANY DAYS DO YOU NEED IN HUACACHINA?

You need two days maximum in Huacachina, not minimum.

 

Get in, tick off all the adrenaline activities, have a night on the town and then get out. With the oppressive heat of the desert and the not so great state of the town itself, after two days you will have done everything you need and will want to be on your way.

 

Here’s a quick breakdown of the two days:

 

  • Day 1 – Arrival, dune buggy/sandboarding tour and a night out
  • Day 2 – Afternoon by the pool and watching the sunset from the dunes

Day 1 - Dune Buggies, Sandboarding And Partying

You’ll most likely arrive around midday or early afternoon. Today is the best day to get your fill of adrenaline in the form of riding dune buggies across the desert.

 

We mention below our favourite accommodation options, but if you’re staying at Banana’s Adventures, then they offer this as the free activity for staying there – bit of a no brainer really. Try and get on the sunset tour, leaving around 5 PM.

 

If you’re not at Banana’s, the best option is to head to where all the buggies are located on the main street. You’ll be able to find people wanting to fill tours, and the trip should cost below £20 ($30). Make sure you haggle with them to lower the price.

 

As you’ll see, staying with Banana’s is cost-effective, and they have tours leaving every day as well as being a great way to meet other people.

Dune Buggy And Sandboarding Tour - What to Expect

Just be warned. The buggy drivers are crazy.

 

We were flying over dunes at high speed and going up and down like it was a rollercoaster. It’s one of those experiences where you can’t stop laughing even if you’re feeling unsafe.

 

Once your hearts nearly leapt out of your chest, you’ll stop for sandboarding halfway through the tour. For novice’s, sandboarding means flying down dunes on your belly. If you’re a snowboarder, then give standing up ago, but a word of warning; the foot loops are not secure, and we saw some epic fails for those attempting to stand up.

 

Sandboarding was a lot of fun, and the last dune we went down was enormous. We’re big fans of adrenaline sports but even this scared us.

Dune Buggy And Sandboarding Tour - Tips And What to Wear

  • Make sure your buggy seatbelt fits and works before the start of the tour
  • Secure all your belongings or hold onto them very tightly during the drive
  • Avoid taking valuables other than a camera
  • Wear a face covering such as a buff if you’re belly boarding, saves you getting a sandy mouth
  • Wear sunglasses as the wind can be strong and will blow sand in your face
  • Wear closed-toe shoes rather than flip flops to avoid sand burns 

The tour will last approximately 2 hours, and following the adrenaline rush, it’s time to head back to the hostel for a beer to calm you down.

 

If you want to party, then why not have more beers at Wild Rover. The famous party hostel has a pool, large bar area and beer pong tables, and it’s a great place to start off the night before heading out into town to one of the random clubs.

Day 2 - Pool Day And Climbing The Dunes For Sunset

The beauty of Huacachina is that there’s not a huge amount to do on your second day. You will most likely have a raging hangover so you can take the time to chill and recover.

 

Have a stroll around the town, which will probably take all of 20 minutes and then chill by the oasis or the hostel pool. Relax, catch some rays, read a book, whatever it is you want to do. But the nearer the pool, the better, the desert heat is intense.

 

If you’re feeling active/not hungover, you can go on a Pisco tour in Ica.

 

Pisco is the famous drink of Peru and Ica has many vineyards for you to try it out. Peru Hop lead tours, but otherwise, you can shop around in Huacachina or just grab a taxi back into Ica and go from there. Two notable vineyards are Tacama and El Catador. We didn’t do this due to being too hungover, so we can’t recommend from our experience, but we always like to give you more options.

Once it gets to around 4-5 PM, you should start heading up the gigantic dunes which surround the oasis.

 

Climbing to the top takes a good 45 minutes and is harder than it looks so be warned. At the top the dunes you get an amazing birds-eye view of the oasis as well as being able to see Ica off in the distance. But it’s the sunset you came from.

 

The desert abyss creates an incredible magenta sunset that’s unforgettable. Take a few beers up with you as it’s the perfect place to enjoy a drink as you watch the sun disappear.

 

Then, you have two options for the evening. 

 

  1. Party more and leave the next morning
  2. Get on a night bus to your next destination, most likely Arequipa if going south or Paracas or Lima if going north.

That should have you covered for Huacachina. We’d be lying if we said it’s one of the better cultural stops in Peru, but it’s not one to miss nonetheless. 

WHERE TO STAY IN HUACACHINA

In our opinion, there are only two options; Banana’s Adventure and Wild Rover Huacachina. 

 

Wild Rover – If you were reading that and winced at the words’ Wild Rover’ then you know precisely what the hostel is about – absolute mayhem. If you’re looking for a good party and non-stop music, that’s your place. The nights are wild, and it’s a great place to meet other travellers. A night in a dorm room costs around £10 ($15).

 

Just make sure you know what you’re getting yourself in to. The music starts at 10 and goes on all night, and if you have a dorm near the pool, then you won’t be getting a lot of sleep. Luckily when Bayf was there, he had a room at the front of the hostel and could hardly hear the noise.

 

Banana’s Adventure – This place has a more laid-back vibe and is our preferred option of the two. The rooms are small, but there’s a large social area downstairs to relax. They also have sun loungers at the top of the buildings if you’re looking to work on your tan.

 

The food here is fantastic with so many options, and the menu is filled with traditional Peruvian dishes as well as home comfort food if that’s something you’re missing. A night costs around £20 ($30) but includes an activity for each night you stay.

 

 

Our Opinion – If you’re looking to party, then stay at Wild Rover. However, if you’re looking to choose when to party stay at Bananas.

 

On top of being away from the crazy, you also have a great bonus of a free activity every night you stay with them. This may include the dune buggy tour or the BBQ they have each night. You can enjoy the relaxed vibes here and then just walk over to Wild Rover when you fancy turning it up a notch.

 

Also, both hostels have pools which are necessary to cool off from the intense desert heat.

HOW TO GET TO HUACACHINA

This oasis town is 5 hours bus ride from Lima.

 

However, most buses will take you to the bigger town of Ica where you’ll need to take a 10-minute taxi to the town. The only bus entering the town is Peru Hop. Buses from Lima cost less than £10 ($15).

 

Depending on your itinerary you may be coming from Paracas which is a two-hour bus ride, and you can find smaller minivans which will take you straight to Huacachina. These cost around £5 ($7).

 

It’s also possible to get there from Arequipa or Nazca which are some other popular destinations if you’re coming from the south of Peru.

For more on backpacking in Peru, check out our itineraries and travel routes: