If you’ve never seen a real oasis, Huacachina should be on your list. The town is completely surrounded by an ocean of massive sand dunes, with a tiny body of water in the middle. The town hugs the edge of the water, boasting only a few hostels, restaurants, and dune buggy garages. It really is neat to see. We arrived at night, and didn’t even realize the towering sand dunes behind the hostel when we checked in.
If you haven’t already, check out my Peru master post, with my itinerary, packing list, budget, and links to all the other posts about this trip!
The next day, we rode into Ica to sample one of the pisco vineyards in the area. If you’re following the same route I did, you’ve definitely had a pisco sour by now. Pisco is a spirit made from grapes, native to Peru and Chile. You’ll be able to tell the difference – Peruvian pisco is clear, while Chilean pisco is a dark amber color. The range comes from the vessels used in the distillery process. Peruvians insist that traditional pisco be made in massive clay pots, while Chilean pisco is aged in wooden barrels, imbuing some of the color.
Our tour was organized through Peruhop, and was definitely worth it. With the craft brewing and moonshine craze sweeping the US, it was really interesting to learn a little more about the process. Plus, just like a traditional vineyard tour, there were plenty of samples. If you enjoy trying different kinds of alcohol, make sure you try ‘real’ pisco. The owner of the vineyard explained to us that real pisco is supposed to be had straight, and sampling follows a strict order of sipping, swishing, and exhaling.
We also had the opportunity to sample some fresh ceviche. Ceviche is a dish prepared with raw fish (and sometimes shellfish and other seafood), lime, onion, and spices. If you like seafood, you’ll love it. Essentially, the citrus cures the fish, and the onion and lime balance one another creating a unique and complex flavor. I ate ceviche every chance I got while on the coast of Peru.
After our day in Ica, we hopped on a tuk tuk back to Huacachina for sand boarding.
The main attraction in Huacachina is the sand. Coming from someone who’s never seen a real desert – it’s mesmerizing. The dunes shift in the wind, and the sand towers over the little town.
More importantly though, the sand is fun to play in…
If you’re in Huacachina for even a few hours, you’ll see the dune buggies. They’re big. They’re loud. They’re a bit scary. But most of all, it’s wicked fun! Dune buggies and sand boards are a big tourist draw to Huacachina, and it’s definitely worth it. The ride itself is pretty bumpy, so it really is for all you adrenaline junkies out there! Most of the buggies stay out for an hour or so before sunset, and you get to watch the sunset over the dunes before heading in. It really is awesome.
We only spent one night/day in Huacachina, and we were busy with all the extras we had planned. If you’re going through Ica, stop in Huacachina for the sand boarding. I think more than 2 or 3 days in the Ica/Huacachina area would be too much, but it’s definitely worth hitting on your way to or from Lima.