Encircled on all four sides buy ginormous sand dunes, the mere sight of Huacachina excites the mind and takes the imagination back centuries. Local legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess was apprehended at her bath by a young hunter. She fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to become the lagoon. Now an oasis on the edge of Ica, its popular with us backpackers for the fun sport of sand boarding and being tossed about like a fruit salad in a dune buggy.
First turning up at the fully booked Banana Adventure hostel, we headed to the only other hostel with a swimming pool in sight, the Casa de Arena just down the road. Through here we booked our sandboarding for the next day as they gave us a discount of 20 pesos each, then crossed over the road to the rental shop for real snowboards and boots (see tips below). That afternoon we grabbed a bottle of rose wine and headed up the dunes for a sweeping sunset vista over the desert dunes beyond.
Our driver the next morning is a happy go lucky chap with a beaming ‘Buenos Dias’ as we greet him out front. Turning the key the engine roars to life as we move through town towards the sand in a somewhat ungraceful fashion. Once we hit the dunes it’s a different story. With a high octane blast from the engine sending the vehicle sideways, our skillful driver navigates us to our first stop. A small dune to get warmed up, we head out to two more with each getting bigger and bigger as we get braver and brave. Happy to have real snowboards we even manage to find a few hits to launch off.
Approaching the final dunes for the morning, with speed you can link all three together for a half decent run. Flying down Matt pops off a small roller in the sand only to make it a few more meters until he catches an edge and goes somersaulting down the rest of the dune, much to the amusement of the rest of the group (not something you want to do trust us). That’ll teach him for showing off.
Back in the buggy screaming up a huge dune to it’s apex, we all soon start to become really nervous as there’s not much dune left and the driver still has his foot to the floor. Sure enough he rips on the hand brake and perfectly perches the buggy tinkering on the ridge. Heading back to town the driver gives it all he’s got and with every yee haw and hoot the driver gives it that little more hoping to secure the best tips possible.
That was something else
Gingerly escaping from the roll bar shell of the buggy with battered butts and jarred joints, there’s not much on the agenda for the afternoon other than remove the sand from every orifice and soak in the hostel pool. Venturing out later that evening for Pisco Sours at a lakeside restaurant and bar called Huacafuckinchina, we presume it’s been named by a fellow Aussie.
With the stifling heat of the desert engulfing Huacachina, there’s not much else to do besides the buggy and sand boarding. Thankful for the swimming pool, we also passed the time with food, and the cheap restaurant to the left of us provides the first sustenance. Afterwards it’s a quick and tasty burger from the Sunset Restaurant on the lake before it’s off to the bus station (with sand still coming out of unknown places) for the night bus down to Nazca.
- Head up to the Sand dunes with a picnic and an ice cold bottle of Rose. The sunset up here is amazing over the desert
- Casa del Arena offers discounts on Dune buggy and Sand board if you stay with them
- If, like us, are a good snowboarder we highly recommend renting a proper board and boots (take the morning trips as then the boots won’t be soaked in someone else’s manky sweat). The boards supplied by the tour companies are nothing but a piece of wood with cloth straps attached. We didn’t see one person being able to stand on these. Instead people lay on them which to us did not look fun. Opt of the real deal, Hollyfield
- The Desert Nights restaurant does good food and it’s also a good meeting place for travellers
For more photos of Huacachina head over to our Flickr page