One thing we didn’t expect to find in Peru was a desert oasis, but that’s exactly what Huacachina is! Nestled among giant sand dunes just outside the city of Ica, Huacachina is a backpacker hotspot. There’s a handful of hostels, restaurants and bars clustered around a small lagoon, and the only things to do are dune buggy-ing and drinking. Huacachina isn’t somewhere you need to stay for a long time, a night or two will do, but it’s definitely a cool place to visit!
How to Get There
To get to Huacachina you need to first get to Ica. From there it’s a short 5-7 minute taxi ride to the oasis for 10 soles.
We arrived in Ica from Arequipa. We took Oltursa for 90 soles (plus a 3 soles tax at the bus booth) and it took just under 12 hours. When the bus got to Ica we were dropped off at the Oltursa bus station. Each company has their own station, but they’re all close together and are all pretty close to Huacachina.
On our way out we took a bus from Ica to Lima. We took Peru Bus, and it cost 40 soles. The trip took about 5 hours. We arrived at an arrival bus station in Lima, and the taxi cost 20 soles to get to the Miraflores area where most backpackers make camp.
Where to Stay
- Samarana – This hostel/restaurant is found on the north side of the lagoon, right beside Huaca-fucking-china Restobar (yes, that is a real place). A private room with a shared bathroom (with one other room) ran us 70 soles, and a dorm room was 25 soles. The restaurant at the front of the hostel was great, lots of good cheap snacks. There’s also a decent pool to cool off in during the day. Wifi works great in both the rooms and main area. You can book online here.
- Casa de Bamboo – Set behind the main drag, this cool looking hostel has a fun vibe, but is a little more expensive than the above option. A private room with an ensuite bathroom is 90 soles, and a dorm room will run you 30 soles. The restaurant near reception is nice, and the rooms are comfy. When we tried to negotiate price, reception offered us cheap dune buggy tours instead if we booked with them, which cost 30 soles a person (as opposed to the regular 40 soles). You can book online here.
- Hotel Sunset – This one is actually a big no no! We actually booked into Hotel Sunset first, but after being there for 10 mins we got a full refund. A lot of perks they promised were just downright false, and we were not impressed. We’d suggest that you avoid Hotel Sunset and go with the above options instead.
What to Do
- Dune Buggy Tour – This is the go to activity in Huacachina! You may as well not go to the oasis unless you get on a dune buggy. We got a decent price through Casa de Bamboo for 30 soles, but heard prices ranging from 30-50 soles. All the tours are almost exactly the same, and travel together through the dunes, so unless you have a large group and book a private one, just look for the best price. Tours start at 4pm and tear out into the desert. You have time to take pictures and then head over to some hills to try out some sand boarding. The boards aren’t great, so you just have to go straight downhill (no carving) but it’s still pretty fun! Once you nail the small hills you’ll head to a massive steep one, so practice up. You’ll rip around some more dunes after that in the buggy, and then find a good spot for the sunset. We didn’t have big expectations, but had a ton of fun!
- Explore the dunes – You can climb up the dunes on foot as well. We recommend going up for sunset, as it’s really hot during the day. Just climbing up the dunes gives you a great overview of the oasis, and a 360 view of the sprawling desert and city sprawling within it. Then you can enjoy our surprise favourite activity, running down the dunes! You can leap and sprint down the massive dunes back into town and it’s super run. Just go for it!
Where to Eat
- Samarana – We got tons of snacks here including some very yummy taqueños (similar to mozzarella sticks that you dip in guacamole!) and sweet potato fries. A great place to have a few beers and some food, a little less crazy than the surrounding bars.
- Banana’s Adventure Hostel – The most popular hostel in Huacachina, this hostel charges you a lot more money but includes a tour each day you stay there. So you’re kind of forced to pay for a tour each day. Although we didn’t stay here, we did chill here one night and got some really good burgers. The vibe is chill and laid back, its a nice place to have a relaxing night and meet new friends.
- Carola Lodge – Pretty much every restaurant and bar is open late serving drinks, but if you really want to party, the dance floor at Carola Lodge is the place to go. It sits on the same street as Casa de Bamboo. It’s still open after everything else closes down, and serves up drinks all night. The music is bumping and there’s a beer pong table for some late night fun. We ended up here on a Wednesday and although it wasn’t packed, we made a bunch of friends and had a great time.