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Huacachina, Ica, Peru: Desert Oasis and Giant Sand Dunes

Next to the city of Ica, about 4 hours from Lima, the scenery might make you feel like you were instantly teleported into the middle of the Sahara Desert.

Nested in the heart of impressive sand dunes, the Huacachina desert oasis appears like a little miracle of Nature. It is the last place where you would expect to find such a body of water!

In fact, desert oases are extremely rare in the Americas. Many say that Huacachina is the one and only desert oasis in the whole of South America. I haven’t studied the subject deep enough to confirm that for you, but in any case, the place is clearly out of the ordinary!

The desert lagoon had been quite popular with the people of Lima until the 1950s, but it was then more or less abandoned. It was only in the 1990s that a few visionary people and businessmen brought it back to life. Nowadays, it made it to the list of tourism hotspots in Peru.

Quick Info

Address: Huacachina, Ica, Peru

GPS: 14°5’15.90″S, 75°45’49.88″W

Best way to go: Short taxi ride from Ica

Duration of stay: 1-3 days

Best season: May-September (winter) for pleasant temperatures.

Good to know: No ATM at the oasis.

Hotel recommendation: Wild Olive Guesthouse


Staying At The Desert Oasis

Over the years, Huacachina has become like a small resort around the lagoon. More hotels, restaurants, and tour operators have established themselves at the oasis, providing the visitors with everything they need. Or almost. The only useful thing you can’t find in Huacachina is an ATM. To get some cash, you need to go to Ica, just a short and cheap taxi ride away.

The Hucacahina Oasis is a very pleasant place to stay, and I have to mention that it’s also very safe.

VIRTUAL TOUR – Huacachina Oasis

Walk around the peaceful oasis of Huacachina (3 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

When I first visited Huacachina more than 10 years ago, I had a hotel in Ica and visited the oasis by taxi for a few hours, and it was already a very cool experience. But as I went back recently with my girlfriend, we decided to take the experience to another level and directly stayed at the oasis for several days. We really loved it and I can only recommend you to do the same if you have the time.

A hotel I can recommend is the Wild Olive Guest House, with simple and clean rooms, I enjoyed my stay there. But you can have a look at other available hotels to make your choice.

The Peruvian Coastal Desert

The geography of Peru is an interesting one. It really is a land of extremes. In the center of the country on a north-south axis, the Andes Cordillera splits Peru into two halves. East of the mountain range is the Amazon Basin, covered with dense and humid rainforests. West of the Andes, along the coast, it’s a desert.

While it would be more adequate to talk about a semi-desert for the northern coast, in central and southern Peru it is so dry that it seems totally lifeless. You can think of it as an extension of the famous Atacama Desert in Chile, known to be the aridest desert on the planet.

The region of Ica belongs to this desert. It virtually never rains. Only 2-3 mm of rain in January/February – that’s almost nothing. However, in the morning, the sky is often overcast with a mist that is the result of the cold water of the Pacific Ocean meeting the warm air of the desert. Mid to late morning, the mist disappears, giving way to the usual blue sky.

The ocean is cold because the Humboldt Current runs along the Peruvian coast, sustaining rich wildlife. Indeed, cold waters are always much richer in nutrients than warm waters.

But the desert itself is extremely hostile. There is nothing, not a plant, not a cactus, it’s like being on the Moon. Where rivers flowing from the Andes cross the desert, Humans took advantage of this providential water to turn the valleys into lush cultivated areas.

A lot of the Peruvian desert consists of endless arid and dusty flat or hilly lands, but Hucachina is located in a large dune field. A fascinating landscape that leaves no one indifferent!

VIRTUAL TOUR – Huacachina Sand Dunes

Venture into the majestic sand dunes around Huacachina until sunset (8 panoramas).

The virtual tour opens in a lightbox. Use your mouse to move around the 360° panoramas.

Huacachina Oasis

Exploring the Huacachina Sand Dunes at Sunset

The desert was my primary reason for staying at the Huacachina Oasis, and I wasn’t disappointed. I couldn’t get enough of these majestic dunes, and every day I would go walk in the desert with my eyes wide open totally enchanted with what I was seeing.

If you walked 55 km (34 miles) west in a straight line across the dunes, you would meet the Pacific Ocean. I did try to ask around for a way to visit this part of the desert, but it seems that the tours that used to exist don’t exist anymore, and everyone basically told me it’s too complicated because very far. Too bad.

In any case, my modest hikes in the dunes were already mind-blowing, and the golden glow of the sunset on the dunes is truly magical. You can check on the map at the bottom of this page how far I went into the desert.

It doesn’t look extremely far on the map but firstly, walking in the dunes is hard! Climbing a dune is exhausting, and it feels like you go two steps down for every step up. Secondly, you don’t actually need to go really far. Just past the first few dunes and the oasis, the people… will just be a remote memory. Just a few dunes away, you feel completely immersed in the desert.

The only people you will see are the ones riding buggies (that’s why you can see tire marks on the sand everywhere in the panoramas), but they drive fast and disappear in a few seconds. You can check out the short video below to see what walking in the desert was like!

What To Do In/From Huacachina

The first thing that comes to mind is of course the exploration of the wonderful sand dunes, attracting thousands of visitors like a magnet.

  • A popular activity is sandboarding. I tried this the first time I visited Huacachina and well… it’s wasn’t a big success. I didn’t know what I was doing and ended up sliding down at an uncontrollable speed and ended up falling and rolling down to the bottom, with my mouth, nose, ear, hair, and everything else full of sand. Since then I have decided that I will leave sandboarding to those who know what they are doing!
  • Another extremely popular activity is riding a buggy. All-day, you can see them driving like crazy in the sand dunes. It’s quite fun and should probably be tried at least once.
  • But as an introvert guy enjoying the peace and simplicity of a jaw-dropping landscape and exploring around, my best memories are definitely when I went hiking in the dunes.

Huacachina can also be a good base to explore the Ica Region, and there are plenty of places to discover in the area.

  • An interesting tour you can choose is a visit to the wineries. Ica is home to some reputed Peruvian wineries such as Tacama, where they produce the famous (and strong) pisco alcohol, among others. I negotiated with a taxi to take us on a tour to the Tacama and El Catador wineries, where we could sample their pisco and a fairly large variety of wines.
  • A must-see in the region is the Paracas National Reserve and the Ballestas Islands. The desert peninsula of Paracas meets the Pacific Ocean and is home to incredible landscapes and rich wildlife – Post coming soon!
  • Another famous attraction is the Nasca Lines. Nasca is not very far from Ica and it is possible to arrange a flight over the lines from a travel agency in Huacachina.
  • A bit more off the beaten track, you can take a tour to a lost canyon in the desert, called Cañon de Los Perdidos. I took this tour with my girlfriend with a private car and driver, with the help of our hotel. A really nice experience!

TRAVEL MAP – Huacachina

Visualize on the map the precise locations of panoramas in the virtual tours and places of interest to help you prepare for your trip to the Huacachina Oasis and sand dunes.

Click Here to View The Map

The map opens in a lightbox. Zoom in to explore!


  • Carmen Edelson
    Posted December 4, 2017 at 9:47 pm

    Woah, loved the virtual tour! So neat. I’ve never heard of Huacachina but I’m adding it to my list. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted December 6, 2017 at 4:11 pm

      Thank you Carmen, happy that you enjoyed it!

  • Carol Colborn
    Posted December 5, 2017 at 6:36 pm

    Thank you so much. The videos made the destination very alive. It was as if I was there with you! Spectacular, you’re right!

    • Post Author
      Posted December 6, 2017 at 4:12 pm

      Thank you Carol! One can only be blown away by such a landscape 🙂

  • Tara
    Posted December 6, 2017 at 4:00 pm

    What a great post – full of so many interesting details to help people plan their visit. I especially love your video work and your virtual tours – so helpful! Plus, I had never heard of Huacachina, and now I can’t wait to visit in real life.

    • Post Author
      Posted December 6, 2017 at 4:13 pm

      Thanks a lot Tara, glad you found this helpful. I wish you to visit it too!

  • Amy
    Posted December 6, 2017 at 6:16 pm

    Love the virtual tours! They add so much. The biggest draw for us wanting to visit Peru is the extreme landscapes, it is such a fascinatingly diverse country. My kids would love to try sandboarding, and I would be happy to take in a desert sunset. Fantastic detail!

    • Post Author
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you Amy, Peru does have extreme and varied landscapes, a real paradise for nature lovers!

  • Rye Santiago
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 12:06 am

    Huacachina sounds really amazing. A friend of mine suggested that I go there, and I decided last year that I would during this long-term travel of mine. The virtual panoramic tour was crystal-clear and surreal at the same time. I’m currently in Canada (my 3rd country since I left Manila), and I know I should enjoy the present, but I can’t resist the charm of South America. I’m so excited to visit Peru late next year! 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 2:20 pm

      Haha I bet! Peru is really amazing, it was my third trip there and I hope there will be a 4th one. Hope you have fun in Huacachina!

  • Edith & Juan
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 8:27 am

    That so awesome! One of the things we want to try is sandboarding and hopefully it’s similar to snowboarding? Peru definitely seems like such a great country to visit. Hope to go one of these days!

    • Post Author
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 2:21 pm

      I suppose sandboarding and snowboarding are similar, I would say it’s better to start with gentle slopes first!

  • Bernie Jackson
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:09 am

    That’s so helpful, as we’re planning a South America trip at the moment. Your advice on the climate and its impact is great, and I love those virtual tours. I think we’d be more about the hiking too.

    • Post Author
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      Glad this was useful to you Bernie!

  • Punita Malhotra
    Posted December 7, 2017 at 11:44 am

    The virtual tours have taken the imaging several notches up, haven’t they? Loved the sand dunes, but never thought of Peru having those, for some reason 🙂 Now my itinerary for South America gets bigger and better.

    • Post Author
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 2:23 pm

      Yes people are often surprised to find such landscapes in Peru, happy that I could contribute to your itinerary!

  • Janine Thomas
    Posted December 8, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    Wow ! What a great virtual tour. The oasis at Hucacachina looks amazing. It looks like a great place to chill, in stunning surroundings. I used to sandboard years ago, but I might be tempted to give it another go in this setting!

    • Post Author
      Posted December 10, 2017 at 2:24 pm

      Hi Janine, if you know how to sandboard you would probably have a blast there! These sand dunes are just magical.

  • Susan
    Posted March 25, 2022 at 3:19 am

    Does it get windy and sandy in the resort?

    • Post Author
      Posted March 27, 2022 at 2:14 am

      Hi Susan,
      Inside the oasis it is not particularly windy or sandy… of course it is still build in the middle of the dunes so there is some sand accumulating here and there but it’s not like you get sandy wind on your face or anything

      • Susan Swanson
        Posted March 27, 2022 at 4:08 am

        Thank you


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