If you find yourself at the Oasis of Huacachina, as most tourists travelling through southern Peru by bus do, you’re undoubtedly there to try your hand at sandboarding. This town of fewer than 200 people is somewhat of a symbol.
I went to Huacachina to see the dunes. These sand mountains around the Oasis, a tiny lagoon flanked by green palms and, of course, a slew of hostels/hotels and travel agencies. The town is a destination in and of itself, just a 7-sole (or near to that) cab ride from the city of Ica. The chance to go out into the dunes is the biggest attraction.
We arrived in Huacachina in the evening—too late to go with a group on our own, but just in time to see the hoards of people returning from the dunes. This is normally the kind of thing that turns us off, but here’s the place to make an exception. We decided to go the following evening.
How to book your tour
Do NOT book this before arriving in Huacachina. You will end up paying a lot more than you would if you’d just waited. Our hostel in Lima tried to sell us the two-hour dune buggy and sandboarding trip for double what we ended up paying.
Once you get to the village, you will be approached from all sides about booking a tour. We often feel a little shaken by this and immediately turn down the offers. Instead, we went into a tour office and booked on our own. We booked at 3 pm for the 4 pm tour and it ended up costing us 45 soles each (that’s about $12). It might seem like a steep price for a two-hour trip (and it is), but this is the one big thing to do in Huacachina, so you might as well find a way to absorb it.
One more thing to keep in mind is to wear close-toed shoes. You’re going to be lying on the board and using your feet to brake. Yes, your shoes will quickly fill with sand, but you’ve just got to learn to live with it (it’s only 2 hours).
The tour itself
At 4 pm, a bunch of dune buggies leave from the village. Maybe 20 or so. Luckily, there is plenty of free space up there in the dunes, so you won’t feel overcrowded.
A bit of a warning: the ride isn’t the most easy-going part of this. There will be times when you suddenly drop down very steep dunes at high speeds. It can make your stomach jump a little, and probably isn’t the best idea for those prone to motion sickness. It can be unnerving at first. But, trust in the fact that your driver goes out at least twice a day and really knows these dunes. You’ll be fine. It gets fun after that.
We stopped at a few different spots to try sandboarding. On the big hills, everyone lies on their stomachs. There are a few smaller ones where we tried standing, but this was a huge fail for me. Some of our group managed pretty well. Though, everyone wiped out pretty hard at some point.
After a while, the sun got pretty low in the sky. We took some time to get our sunset photos and empty our shoes, then did some more stomach-wrenching dune buggying.
The tour ends with a mob of dune buggies gathering above the village to get sunset shots from above.
There’s a decent view of the village, though you’ll have to fight your way around other tourists in order to get the shot.
All in all, a fun experience packed into a short timespan. This is one of those things you do for the pure joy of it and the sense of adventure, not because you are looking to get off the beaten track and be different. Luckily, the crowds don’t matter when you’re out there.
Read also: The Complete Beginner Travel Guide to Nassau
Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ)
How to get to Huacachina?
The Huacachina oasis lies a few hours south of Lima, near the city of Ica. Huacachina is always reached via cab from neighbouring Ica.
Ica can be reached by road from Lima to the north and Arequipa to the south. Peru Hop is the sole direct bus to Huacachina, with buses running from Lima to Huacachina and Cusco to Huacachina, as well as from Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa, and other destinations, saving you the trouble of getting a cab from and to Ica.
It is also feasible to go by road from Arequipa to Ica and then to Huacachina. The major benefit of a private transport is the opportunity to stop along the route; however, due to the lack of apparent stops on this trip, private transfers are less prevalent than those from Lima to Huacachina. Buses are the most common mode of transportation from Arequipa to Ica, followed by taxis as in the preceding choice. The travel by bus takes roughly 12 hours. Cruz del Sur operates three to five daily nighttime departures from Arequipa’s Terrapuerto, the city’s major bus station.
There is no airport in the nearest city of Ica, therefore flying to Huacachina is not an option. Because flying is not a possibility, you basically only have two alternatives for getting from Lima to Huacachina.
How much cost is a dune buggy in Huacachina?
In Huacachina, dune buggy trips and sandboarding are just $12 per person. Dune Buggy Rides and Sandboarding in Huacachina are far less expensive than you may think. A 2-hour trip costs around $12 per person plus a $1 admission charge. You may choose between a morning and an afternoon excursion. Because you’re in the desert and the dunes, I usually prefer the afternoon trip because it’s much cooler and the heat isn’t beating down on you as hard. You’ll also get to view the sun set over the Huacachina dunes, and this excursion normally lasts an hour longer than the daytime ones.
When is the best time to go sand surfing in Huacachina?
Sandboarding down the massive Huacachina sand dunes is another must-do activity while visiting this wonderful Peru oasis. In general, the greatest time to do sandboarding in Peru is when the sand isn’t too hot. This indicates early in the morning or late in the afternoon, around sunset. We went two hours before dusk and went to the side where the sun wasn’t shining all day.
In Huacachina, you may enjoy sand surfing all year, with February and March being the warmest months and July being the coolest. The ideal times to see the dunes are early morning and late afternoon. This is when the weather is milder and the sand is not too heated. We suggest going sandboarding around sunset for a really unforgettable experience, as the sky darkens and you can enjoy a wonderful view of the Huacachina hamlet.