Who Knew? There’s a Desert & Oasis in Peru

Location Huacachina Peru | Dates June 28-29 | Accommodation Banana’s Hostel

Bus Beginnings

We took the Peru Hop (huge mistake – see review) to Huacachina. It was not on time, so we waited at 5am on the freezing street in the dark in Arequipa. The day consisted of an 11-hour bus ride with a wildly rude “guide” Mika who photographed our passports (ID theft alert!), unable to answer when my sister asked her why. At one point I napped, and was aroused by the super-loud sound of Lion King’s opening note blaring through the onboard TV.

Thank god the scenery was cool. We passed by desert town after desert town, each looking more like a wasteland than the next. Thatched huts, falling down homes, opening to desert on the right, rocky and stark, and blue ocean on the left — unreal scenery. I become obsessed with the depressed towns and wish we could exit and stay overnight in one (or more) of them. As we drove, we saw the sun set behind the amazing dunes.


We stopped here to eat, everyone heading to the selected tourist spot for overpriced fare. Everyone except us. We wandered the entire town, having rationed our onboard snacks for lunch. It was unreal; another wasteland with shacks falling into the desert, grimy streets lined by power lines that didn’t appear to be functional, locals yelling at us as they sped by (aka harassment), the ocean unfolding left with dirty beaches. At bottom, a small blue church with flags beside an abandoned boat into the water. A nothing town, but I found it intriguing. As you can tell by my many photos.


Nazca is a city in the desert, best known for the Nazca lines – or unknown pre-Columbian geoglyph lines in the ground made by ancient cultures — or aliens. The origin is unclear, and the lines are very odd. They’re very shallow but somehow undisturbed in the desert winds; and in strange shapes that bear no relation to one another. To view them all you need to fly over ($80usd), but we got a small glimpse of 3 of them climbing a terrifying metal tower high above the road which looked unstable. Naza seemed quite interesting, too, and we regretted not having stayed longer than our short stop.

Huacachina Oasis in the Desert

An oasis in the desert of South America, Huacachina is admittedly a total tourist trap. But a cool one at that – which we knew going in. The entire town barely a block, built around natural lake in the desert surrounded by palm trees, the desert’s massive dunes rising high above it. The town boats sandboarding and dune buggying and little else.

The lake is surrounded by tourist restaurants and hostels, one of which we dined at sharing a dish as it was overpriced. The dish was mediocre, pisco sours excellent. Literally, all the restaurants at the Huacachina oasis are the same.

We spent the morning hanging at the bar and socializing (eating breakfast there, not drinking…well 5 cups of water), then went for a hearty climb on the sand dunes. Up and up we climbed, calves burning, until we reached the peak and an amazing panorama of the oasis, desert dunes, and cities surrounding. After a casual photo shoot we went back down, bodies full of sand, for day drinks.

We enjoyed maracuya sour — aka papaya sour – which for several weeks I idiotically believed was a special, exotic local fruit for some reason, rather than the translation for “papaya.” We scrounged for money and managed to pay for everything with less than 50 soles to spare (15 cents) – GREAT budgeting!

Sandboarding and 4x4ing

One and the same, you ride the 4×4 to the sandboarding hills. We drove over the dunes fast, kind of like a roller coaster, in our neon pink and green car. The boards were described as “basic,” but were downright primitive. Made of wood, flaking off, with broken velcro foot straps, we waxed them with a broken candle our overweight, angry guide gruffly gave us. The first hills were “small”; we sat on our butts (way dangerous to stand with weak straps; another tourist didn’t listen to instruction and sliced his head open and had to get stitches). We then did 3 very tall hills on our stomachs, which was terrifying as you get going pretty fast by the end and could definitely smash your face. Back down, we headed up the dunes for sunset. After a second strenuous climb, waiting over an hour, freezing (I huddled into the sand for warmth and sand blew all over my face and mouth), we finally gave up and went back inside. We then grabbed a cab to Ica.

Hostel Happenings

I thought my bed showed signs of bed bugs, but the hostel was full so we determined the best course of action was to share Sarah’s bed — a tiny, top bunk bed. We tried to get to sleep prior to our roommates returning, but the girl entered and I awkwardly explained my bed was dirty and that was why we were sharing. In the middle of the night we also awoke to find one of our roommates had brought someone home from the bar. Lovely. At breakfast, we told others of our tale to which they were horrified. Later, 2 guys bonded over their experiences with ayahuasca (This would happen again).

Keep reading about Ica!

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