What can I say about this place? This little village is essentially a little oasis located in the middle of the Peruvian desert. It looks completely unreal, like the kind of mirage you’d envision if you had spent hours wandering lost through an arid wasteland. Yet there it is, lush and green, surrounded by palm trees, with an inviting emerald lagoon located right smack dab in the middle.
I came to Huacachina, like everyone else does, with two things on my mind: to ride dune buggies through the desert and go sandboarding! I hadn’t tried either of these before coming to Peru, and this seemed like the perfect place to get my adrenaline pumping. If you’re looking for the best things to do in Huacachina you can check out Find Local Trips for some more suggestions, but now let’s talk about those dunes!
Since we hadn’t planned or pre-booked anything, we just showed up in Huacachina to hire a driver on the spot. There are lots of drivers there to greet you (and hopefully get your business) as soon as you arrive in the town, however, we ended up walking into the Desert Night Tours office since it had been recommended to us by the vineyard where we were staying. There, we were able to hire a driver and a private dune buggy for 4, and off we went to ride some dunes.
After a “gentle” introduction to dune buggying and giving us time to snap a few photos, our driver gave us the roller coaster version which had Sam and my uncle laughing and left me screaming, “No, noooo! Despacitoooo, por favor!” (Of course, my pleas for a leisurely ride seemed to have little effect, ha!)
I have to say this was the most terrifying yet exhilarating experience in my recent travels. It may not look like it in the pictures, but some of those dunes were the size of mountains, and racing down those steep inclines at full speed had me screaming the whole way down. It was the kind of fun where you’re relieved when it’s over, but then you want to do it again.
We got to sandboard down the dunes 3 times over the course of the tour, and by sandboard I mean slide down on our bellies because no one in our group knew how to sandboard. We started out with what our driver referred to as a baby hill…pshhh, maybe if that hill were the child of Everest. It was scary, it was steep, and it was a long way down.
Of course we were going to do this headfirst, a very vulnerable way to go down a hill if you ask me, but apparently that’s how you have the most control over your descent according to the driver. So, I chickened out and made my uncle go first, and then once he did it (and survived!) I followed suit.
Stomach flat on the board, elbows tucked in, feet ready to be dug into the sand as brakes, and off I went.
This was followed by the longest “Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaghhhhhhhhh!” in the history of sandboarding, but I did it! And then I went again a second time on a bigger dune, and a third time on an even bigger dune. I felt pretty accomplished having done it considering how scared I was the first time I looked down from the top of the first dune.
Audrey: 3, Huacachina: 0.
We finished off the trip by driving up to the dune that overlooks the oasis and here we had some time to snap a few photos of the lagoon and literally catch our breaths. At the end of it all, my hair was matted, my pockets were full of sand, and my foot was flapping a broken sandal, but I was also grinning from ear to ear.
Interesting little fact: the lagoon is a natural body of water, however, in recent years the water level has started to drop due to the number of wells that have been dug around the area for farming purposes. Because the oasis is such an important part of tourism (and they can’t afford to let the place run dry!), water is now artificially pumped into the lagoon.
And now time for a little video! I’m almost a little embarrassed to share this because I let out the most ridiculous scream (just scroll over to the 2:56 mark and you’ll see what I mean), but what’s YouTube there for if not to offer entertainment? Enjoy.
QUICK TIP: If you’re ready to buggy and go sandboarding in Huacachina but you want to avoid the hassle of driving out there, then the best way to get there is with Peru Hop.
Tips for sandboarding and dune buggying in Huacachina:
- Wear closed shoes. I know this seems like an odd choice for footwear – wouldn’t flip flops be better since running shoes are bound to fill up with sand? Well, yes and no. The reason for closed shoes is that if you decided to try sandboarding you’re going to need them to strap in, and if you decided to slide down on your stomach like I did, you’re going to be using your feet as brakes. Digging your bare feet into the hot sand as you descend a giant dune isn’t particularly comfortable.
- Preferably leave your fancy camera behind. Those dune buggies are no joke. You will be tossing, turning, and your fancy dSLR will be doing the same with you. I’ve already ruined a camera with sand on a different trip, so preferably bring an adventure camera like a GoPro, or something that you don’t mind getting a little beat up.
- Bring a pair of sunglasses. You don’t want to get a whole bunch of sand in your eyes when you’re sliding down the dunes.
- Get travel insurance. This should go without saying as you should always be prepared for the unexpected when you travel, but even more so when you’re dabbling in adventurous sports and activities. You can get a quote from World Nomads here.
Hiring a driver in Huacachina:
Hiring a dune buggy driver in Huacachina is easy. We hired a driver on the spot and paid 60 soles per person for a 1 hour private tour. There was also the option of joining a larger group tour for 2 hours, but we felt 1 hour would be enough and that way we could also ask the driver to go a little slower if it was that scary.
Some people like to come to Huacachina for longer visits, but it can easily be planned as a weekend trip from Lima like I did.
Have you been to Huacachina or any other oasis in the desert?
What was it like?