Visiting Arequipa was a nice sneak preview into Peruvian life. Machu Picchu was a dream come true and the Sacred Valley was inspiring. But what was the most fun thing I did in Peru? What made me giggle with joy and ecstatic with excitement? Riding a dune buddy and sandboarding in Huacachina Peru!
Huacachina is a small desert oasis, just a 10 minutes (and 10 Soles) cab ride from Ica. It has everything you would imagine of an oasis. A lake in the middle of the oasis, lined by waving palm trees in the arid dry wind. It has shabby little hotels and hostels but most of all: the dunes towering over the little town and the oasis.
Huacachina is part of the Ica region and a nice stop along the Pacific Coast if you travel from Lima to Arequipa or Cuzco. You can combine it with a visit in Paracas or Nazca.
Huacachina: a tourist hotspot
Flocked by thousands of tourists every year, Huacachina is high on adrenaline junkies’ wish lists mainly because of the options to go sandboarding in Huacachina Peru.
You can find a lot of hotels, a few restaurants, some naked dogs just like in Paracas and many hostels to chill and relax by the pool. I stayed at Banana’s Adventure, a nice hostel with its own pool and very relaxed vibe. Mostly visited by backpackers and they know how to make a few bucks with their pool bar and tours. I booked my tours via the hostel which was very convenient. I paid 30 Soles for the Dune Buggy and Sandboarding tour in the dunes of Huacachina. If you want to know more about the hostel, check the link to Banana’s Adventure Hostel.
Dune Buggy and Sandboarding in Huacachina Peru
You could opt for a wine tour of the Ica wine region, but that’s not why you want to go to Huacachina! You want to explore the dunes and you can do this with a dune buggy and sandboarding tour. It was so much fun. I screamed with sheer joy and excitement and it is nothing like you have done before (unless you’re a pro sand boarder, but then you’d already know about the sandboarding in Huacachina Peru.)
You can take a morning tour or an afternoon tour. As it is the desert and you’re in the dunes, I would always recommend the afternoon tour as it is much cooler and the sun is not beating down on you that fiercely. You’ll also get an added bonus of seeing the sun set over the dunes of Huacachina and this tour usually last an hour longer than the daytime tours.
Basic Dune Buggy and Sandboarding Tours Huacachina
All outfitters in Huacachina do the same. They will load you in their dune buggies and take you to the dunes of Huacachina. You will pay an entrance fee to the park and off you go. Once you’re in the park, the driver will storm off and that’s when the fun starts. Sand flying everywhere, it feels like you are in a roller coaster ride. Up and down, free fall down the dunes. Up a steep hill where you see nothing but sky and plunge down into the deep again.
Sandboarding in Huacachina Peru
Once you did a few rounds and your heart rate is back to its normal pace, you’ll go to the first dune where you can have a go at sandboarding. The company will bring “snow” boards, fit to use on the sand. They are not waxed and you have to be lucky to find a board that fits, but then it just goes downhill from there.
As I am the biggest chicken out there, I passed on the actual sandboarding in Huacachina. I wandered off a bit and took in the landscape and the dunes around me. I was soon pulled back to the screams of excitement from the other people. You can go down standing up on your sand board, or just lay flat on your tummy and let gravity do the rest.
After the first dunes, you continue onwards to higher and steeper dunes. You can go down sandboarding, or hop back into the dune buggy and drive back to the rest of the group. After 1.5 hours, you’ll reach one of the highest and steepest dunes in the park and everyone can have a go at making it down in one piece. I must say, it takes skill and bravery to do it, but everyone made it down; super stocked and pumped with adrenaline.
After this, the sun will soon set and we had to return to Huacachina. We stopped at the viewpoint overlooking the oasis. All the small little lights went on and you could see the oasis nested between the palm trees and the huge dunes of sand. My heart rate was now back to normal and we returned to our hostel.
What to pack for sandboarding in Huacachina?
A small and useful list of things to pack when you want to ride a dune buggy and go sandboarding in Huacachina Peru.
- A buff or scarf. Because you’re in the dunes and there is a lot of sand. Especially when you go down on your stomach. You can thank me later.
- Non sticky sunscreen. Don’t you hate it when you’re all covered in sun screen and with the first step on the beach or in the dunes you’re covered with sticky grains of sand that give you that exfoliating feel? Yea me too. Use non-sticky and non-oily sun screen to protect you from the blistering sun.
- A hat. Basically my one item you must have everywhere in Peru, but especially when exploring the dunes of Huacachina.
- Closed shoes. Don’t wear your sandals or flip-flops. You will burn your feet when trying to walk.
Things to consider when visiting Huacachina, Peru
As you might be used to by now, it is not all unicorns and rainbows with my travels. I read a lot about Peru before I went and I was struggling with the internal debate:
Should I visit Huacachina in a Dune Buggy?
The oasis is a natural phenomenon and once upon a time the small hamlet was a magical place. Now it is overrun by tourists who hop on and hop off in Huacachina. They do a quick tour of the dunes and head onwards to the next destination. The water in the lake is now artificial and there was a lot of garbage lying around everywhere. And then the question of visiting the dunes: how can this be sustainable if you visit a national park in a loud and roaring dune buggy?
The 4×4 dune buggies are by no means sustainable or environment friendly. They all line up when it is time to head to the dunes and they roar off in one loud parade of diesel fumes and exhaust pipes.
Unfortunately, my curiosity won it from my concise. I am sorry for that. Unfortunately for the environment, the sandboarding tours in Huacachina cater very well to the modern day tourist. Quick, cheap tours, filled with adrenaline in an unique landscape. Making memories and trying something new in a fragile environment.
I feel Peru and the government of Ica and Huacachina should find another way to share the dunes of Huacachina with the world. A sustainable way that puts less strains on the oasis itself and the dunes that surround it.
Would you go sandboarding in Huacachina? Do you know a good way to visit the dunes of Huacachina and still experience the excitement I felt when visiting the dunes in a dune buggy? Would you dare to go sandboarding in Huacachina Peru? Please share your opinions on this dilemma.