HUACACHINA.COM PRIVATE TOURS

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Welcome to South America’s Oasis:
HUACACHINA

WHERE AND WHAT IS HUACACHINA?

Huacachina is a desert oasis in Southern Peru, located approximately 5 hours south of Lima. It is located just 10 minutes away from downtown Ica, a small city on the coast. It is a small lagoon surrounded by palm trees and gigantic sand dunes, similar to those seen in the Sahara Desert in Africa.

In the 1940’s, the oasis became a popular beauty spa for wealthy Peruvians in Lima: the waters were thought to have healing powers, and many Limenos came to bathe in the waters to soothe and heal their bodies and skin. A number of luxurious hotels were created along the lagoon,along with a boardwalk and streets.

However, at some point in the 1950s it fell out of favor, and for decades it was abandoned, and largley considered a place without any touristic appeal.

At some point in the 1990’s however, clever businessmen began to offer tourists the option to explore the gigantic sand dunes in a 4-wheel-drive dune buggy, and travelers quickly realized that this was a rare and enjoyable experience in a country that was already famous for providing mountains, jungles, and ancient ruins. The sand dunes in the desert around Huacachina are beautiful, sensual, and very photogenic.

Finally, young Peruvians discovered that the gigantic sand dunes could provide hours of thrills by sandboarding down the slopes on a snowboard, used for sand instead of snow.

Nowadays, Huacachina serves as a popular tourist destination for young and old, rich and poor, foreigners and Peruvians, men and women, who all come to experience the beauty of the desert on a dune buggy tour, and to try sandboarding down the dunes.

Huacachina Oase Location

WHAT CAN I DO IN HUACACHINA, AND NEARBY?

The most famous tour in the region is the DUNE BUGGY AND SANDBOARDING TOUR. This popular tour involves being driven through the gigantic sand dunes in a dune buggy that looks like it is from a SCI-FI movie, and then trying the sport of sandboarding. Because the sport of sandboarding is very challenging, most visitors eventually end up lying flat on the sandboard on their stomachs, and using it like a sled. This is very fast and not difficult, and offers a lot entertainment value.

HUACACHINA.com can offer this tour as a public tour, or as a private tour. The public tour usually departs three times per day, at 10 AM, 1 PM and 4 PM. The 4 PM tour is always the most recommendable tour, as the temperature in the desert is more enjoyable at that time of day, and the tour lasts 45 minutes longer than the earlier tours.

A few minutes away from the oasis are a number of wineries and pisco-producing factories that serve as the basis for the WINERY AND PISCO TOUR. This is a popular tour where visitors can learn about how Peruvians make the sweet red wine that this region is famous for, and also try PISCO, a potent grape brandy that is the national drink of Peru. These alcoholic beverages have been made since the Spanish Conquistadors brought with them grapes to the “New World” and then forced the locals to grow the grapes.

There is also a small but attractive ARCHAEOLOGY MUSEUM, filled with mummies, beautiful ceramic objects made by ancient tribes on the coast, and valuable textiles which are occasionally stolen from the museum due to their high value.

From the oasis, many travelers decide to take the BALLESTAS ISLANDS BOAT TOUR, which is a half-day tour to the marine wildlife reserve near the village of Paracas. This boat tour includes a chance to see a wide range of mammals and birds, including Humboldt penguins, sea lions, fur seals, and huge flocks of marine birds. It is sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” because it is an inexpensive tour that offers a rich view of many wild animals, although of course it cannot compare to the diversity and uniqueness of the Galapagos Islands.

Just two hours south of Huacachina is the Nazca Pampa, a famous piece of desert where ancient tribes scraped gigantic figures into the desert floor. These NAZCA LINES have become world-famous as a source of mystery and curiosity. The figures are in the shape of animals such as monkeys, dogs, and hummingbirds. To see them, visitors fly over them in a small Cessna aircraft. HUACACHINA.com offers flights over the Nazca Lines from the city of ICA (just minutes away from Huacachina), and from PISCO and NAZCA. The flights are cheaper in Nazca, but flying from Pisco or Ica allows visitors to save a lot of time compared to traveling two hours to Nazca and then two hours back to Ica.

CAN I SEE SOME PHOTOS? The photo gallery is located here: Huacachina Photo Gallery

Dune Buggy Nazca Lines

WHAT ITEMS SHOULD I BRING TO HUACACHINA?

Some useful items that every passenger should bring with them to Huacachina are :

+ Your passport
+ Sunscreen / sunblock / hats
+ Sun glasses (to prevent sand flying in your eyes)
+ A sweatshirt (it can get chilly in the evenings)
+ Money - in Peruvian soles
+ Tennis shoes / sneakers
+ Sandals are great, but *not* appropriate for the dune buggy tour. Wear tennis shoes for that.
+ Swimming suit ( to swim in pools, not the lagoon) is appropriate from November to February

HOW DO I GET THERE?

There are no flights to Ica. So you only have two options:

By Bus: the bus companies Cruz del Sur, OLTURSA, and CIAL all offer buses along this route, departing from Lima. It takes approximately 4 hours and 30 minutes by bus. Local bus companies like SOYUZ also offer service along this route. The advantage of SOYUZ is that the bus tickets do not need to be purchased in advance: just show up at the station at any time, day or night, and your bus will depart within 20 minutes. Just be aware that pickpockets like to ride these local buses and target foreigners who aren’t cautious with their laptop or bags.

You will need to take a bus to the city of Ica, and then take a taxi to Huacachina. Taxis are cheap: a safe, registered taxi from inside the bus station is your safest option and will cost around $4 USD per person. Local taxis hired on the street will charge around $2 USD per person to drive you to Huacachina.

By Private transport: Huacachina.com offers private transport for those clients who appreciate the added convenience, comfort and security of traveling by private car or van. Contact us today for a price quote for this service.

WHERE CAN I STAY?

Please view out page on HOTELS AND HOSTELS IN HUACACHINA AND ICA.

WHERE SHOULD I EAT?

Kindly check out our page on RESTAURANTS and BARS IN HUACACHINA AND ICA. Coming soon.

INFORMATION ABOUT MONEY

There is only one ATM (cash) machine in Huacachina, and it is not very reliable. Bring cash, in the form of Peruvian soles.

Most restaurants and stores do not want credit cards or debit cards, they prefer cash.

There are several large banks with modern ATM machines in downtown Ica, just 15 minutes away from Huacachina.

In downtown Ica there are “cambistas” or money-changers who can convert US dollars to soles, or vice-versa. Always be alert to the possibility of receiving fake bills.

HEALTH AND SAFETY

Overall, Huacachina is a very safe place. The biggest danger is the risk of injuring oneself during the sandboarding. Some travelers have injured themselves seriously by attempting dangerous methods. It is important to “zig zag” down the face of the dune, instead of going straight down, which is too fast.

Another danger is unlicensed and unsafe drivers of the dune buggies. Some drivers are not authorized to drive passengers but they do so anyway. Several tourists have died over the last few years from unscrupulous and unsafe drivers, sometimes who were driving drunk or tired. The best way to avoid the danger is to hire a safe and respected agency like HUACACHINA.com to provide this tour. We work with drivers who comply with the safety regulations and who are licensed, and have displayed a long history of safe operation of their buggy.

Dehydration is also a possibility, because Ica is a desert, so travelers are encouraged not to wander too far into the desert. They may get disoriented and lost.

Travelers are encouraged not to swim in the lagoon, which is not particularly dangerous but may be dirty.

HUACACHINA MAP

WEATHER

This is one of the driest regions in the world, so rain is infrequent and usually no more than a light drizzle.

From December to February, the temperature is very hot during the day, and cool at night. The rest of the year the temperature is mild or lukewarm during the day, and then cool at night.

INTERNET

There are several internet cafes in Huacachina, which offer per-hour internet rental. The cost is usually around $2 USD per hour.