Huacachina: Sandboarding and Riding Dune Buggies in the Desert

Huacachina!

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.

Huacachina: Sandboarding and Riding Dune Buggies.

Huacachina, Ica, Peru.

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!

Huacachina, an oasis in the Peruvian desert.

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!)

Dune buggying in Huacachina

Dune buggying!

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.

Sandboarding in Huacachina

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?

43 Comments

  • Paulina says:

    Hi Audrey! I have been to Huacachina one year ago and your post brought back memories 🙂 Obviously I also slided down on my belly and that was scary enough. I enjoyed the fast buggy rides though, I think for me it was even more fun than the sandboarding:)

    • Audrey says:

      Glad to hear it brought back good memories! I really enjoyed my day visit and would have loved to stay longer. The town also seems to have a really cool vibe to it.

  • Wow! That’s so cool! I never knew that Peru had a desert. Those pictures look right out of the Middle East. I’ve heard a lot of good things about this sandboarding thing so I’ll have to try it on my travels sometime. Thanks for sharing! 🙂
    Katelyn @ Diaries of a Wandering Lobster recently posted..Hiking the Highest Volcano and Zip Lining Costa Rica JunglesMy Profile

    • Audrey says:

      Yes, do try the sandboarding if you get the chance! I was so scared before going down the first hill, but you get such an adrenaline rush that you just want to do it again and again. 😀

  • Lauren says:

    Did you find that you ate a lot of sand on your way down the sand dune face first? LOL. It looks like a lot of fun – scary, but fun! I would totally do it. I would be screaming too!!
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    • Audrey says:

      Haha, not nearly as much sand as I expected! I was crunching on some grains of sand by the end of it, but I didn’t get the mouthful I thought I would with all that screaming. 😉

  • Renuka says:

    Sounds fun! Though I am not sure if I would like to do it, I think watching people sandboarding should be fun, too.
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  • Susie says:

    It looks like so much fun! I’d love to try it. I’m so glad to know that they are preserving the lagoon!
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    • Audrey says:

      Yes, it would be a shame for it to just vanish. It’s such a cool little spot to find in the middle of the desert.

  • Justine says:

    Fun! I’ve always wanted to go sandboarding. And to be able to hang out in such a beautiful landscape would be unreal. I’ve snowboarded a ton in the past but I wonder how sandboarding would compare. I’m sure I’d be screaming too and I’m almost positive I would take a tumble down the dune…
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    • Audrey says:

      I’ve never tried snowboarding so I have no idea how it would compare, but I can tell you there is a bit of friction involved with sandboarding (we had to put lots of wax of them before sliding down)!

  • evankristine says:

    Aaah! That looks so damn fun! When I was in Abu Dhabi I thought I’d try that sand dune thing but it was quite expensive I had to postponed it. I wish that one day I can do this too, prefarably in Huacachina as well!!! Amazing video as well by the way, totally captured the fun you guys had there! Much love, Evan

    • Audrey says:

      It was a lot of fun! I was terrified half the time, but the adrenaline rush made it all the better. I hope you get to try it sometime!

  • Zascha says:

    I read an article about this place only a few weeks ago and I instantly added it on to my bucket list.
    I can totally understand all of the screaming, I would probably be the same, but I have to admit, it looks like SO much fun! I’m a bit of a scaredy cat, but I really want to try it.
    Also, the place looks amazing! 🙂
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  • De'Jav says:

    Looks like so much fun there especially riding sand buggies
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  • Eva says:

    Wow, it sounds like a crazy desert roller coaster! I didn’t know they had dunes like this in Peru!
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  • Natalie says:

    The dune buggy is appealing but not the sand-boarding. Will still be pulling sand out of numerous orifices 6 days later! 😉

  • Katie says:

    One of the scariest experiences during our time in South America! It really is like a roller coaster when you are barrelling down those dunes at full speed. I did the first 3 of 5 rides down the dunes on my stomach and jammed my feet into the sand the whole way down – so scary!
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  • Aaron says:

    I have done this once but only on small dunes, it looks like so much fun, I think its great how you are thinking outside the box when it comes to activities while travelling!

    • Audrey says:

      One of the coolest things I’ve done in a long time. Here they started us out on the baby dunes (which weren’t all that small!) and then we slowly worked our way up to the really big ones.

  • You really weren’t joking! The video looks so much more daunting than the photos! I hope to go to South America next summer and this looks like great fun.

    Thanks for the tips 🙂

    Beanie

  • Great video. Sorry for the shoe. 🙂
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  • Uelito says:

    Hi Audrey

    I have been in Ica around March last year. Huacachina is a very special place indeed. Before I got there I knew about the sandboarding, but I had no idea about the buggies. I can totally understand you. I prepared myself aswell for a “gentle” ride through the dunes. But no, it was the craziest rollercoaster ride ever! Haha. Crazy.

    Diviertete en el maravilloso Perú! Hasta luego.

    Uelito
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  • Audrey says:

    That’s cool that you also got to visit. Ica turned out to be one of the highlights of my time in Peru. I’m already plotting a return visit to the country – there’s still so much I want to see!

  • Huacachina says:

    Nice pics and experience (y)

  • DAFNE says:

    Yeah, it’s a little scary having to push yourself down the dune headfirst, but you get such a rush out of it!Arabian adventures desert safari in Dubai on big savings including dhow cruise dinner, dubai city tour, helicopter tour, ferrari world, and many…
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  • Shelly says:

    This looks so fun! May have just added it to our bucket list…

  • Kavita says:

    Hey, it looks awesome. 50 USD for 3 looks like a real good deal. Any suggestion/advice, how can I book it?

    • Audrey says:

      We just walked into one of the hostels / tour operators in the square and booked on the spot. You’ll also notice a lot of drivers hanging around the town, so you can ask to see their vehicle and then get a quote.

  • Abby says:

    Hi Audrey!

    What time do you recommend going sand boarding to catch the sunset? I am taking a bus from Lima to Ica and it arrives at 6:30 pm. I’m not sure if I would still be able to catch the sunset that night for sand boarding or if I should wait until the next morning to go here.

    • Audrey says:

      Hi Abby, I just googled sunrise in Huacachina this time of year and it happens at 6:25 p.m. It sounds like you’ll just miss it, so maybe plan to do the tour the following day. That way you won’t feel too rushed either. Have a great trip!

  • Andrea says:

    Hi Audrey,
    What did you do with your luggage while on the tour? We’ll just be passing through Ica and won’t have a hotel.

    • Audrey Bergner says:

      Hi Andrea, I did this as a day trip, so I didn’t have all my luggage with me. I think the tour operator should be able to store this for you in their office. I’m sure they get a lot of tourists passing through on their way south.

  • Sarah says:

    Hi Audrey! I absolutely love your page and youtube channel!! I will being traveling to Peru in August and I wanted to visit the sand dunes in Haucachina. I wanted to book a tour once I’m there like you did. I was wondering the best way to get there from Lima. I know you mentioned Peru Hop, but I was looking into it and it seemed like it was a tour itself.
    Thank you so much!

  • gio says:

    Hi Audrey, you posted a really good tip, hiring a dune buggy driver for 60 soles p/p for a private 1 hr. ride. Did the driver had sandboards included in the price or the equipment was extra? Maybe if you remember and want to share where and what was the name of driver?
    We are going this coming August 15th; my husband and 2 daughters 13 and 14 yrd old, eager to sandboard!!! I will just go for the ride and take pictures, as my hubby probably will try to embarrassed himself….jijiji.
    Thank you,
    GK

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