Surrounded by an immense desert and enormous dunes, the Huacachina Lagoon is a mandatory stop for those seeking fun and adventure.
Among the innumerable tourist attractions that Peru offers, one stands out for its natural charm and scenic beauty. The Huacachina Lagoon, just 20 minutes from the city of Ica, is an ideal place to disconnect from the routine, take a break and, why not, practice some adventure sports.
Known as the 'Oasis of America', here you will find a placid lake surrounded by vegetation, boardwalks and a wide range of hotels to stay and enjoy more than one day of this wonderful refuge. The scenic beauty that this place has to offer tourists is so great that, in 2017, the British media The Telegraph included the Huacachina oasis among the 21 most impressive destinations in the world to visit, the only one in Latin America on the prestigious list.
The stories about the origin of this oasis tell that a beautiful Inca princess known as Huacca China spent her days in this quiet place. This woman had the gift of making whoever crossed her path fall in love with the special sound of her beautiful voice.
On one occasion, when the princess was out for a walk, a man watched her and was dazzled by her beauty, in such a way that she decided to approach her. The princess decided to run away from him. On the way, the lady's suit began to tear in the undergrowth until she finally fell off and became a sheet of sand. She also dropped the mirror that she always carried with her and, when it broke, she was transformed into a lagoon where she submerged and became a mermaid.
Another legend tells that this lagoon was born from the tears of the same princess who cried the death of her lover. From this story originates the name of Huacachina which means "woman who cries" in Quechua.
Huacachina is located in the Ica desert, 350 km south of Lima. It is a charming town built around a natural oasis. It is made up of a collection of resorts and restaurants around an emerald lake, surrounded by huge sand dunes.
According to tradition, its waters had healing properties; for this reason, in 1940, Huacachina became a popular spa. Today, although its population is around 100 people, it is a tourist destination of great interest for national and international tourists. In the town you will also find some small souvenir shops and local products, many hotels and hostels with various prices, as well as various places to eat.
It is recommended to visit this wonderful place between February and March, when the weather is hotter, although it is a perfect destination for any time of the year.
Although the oasis is beautiful, with its lagoon surrounded by palm trees and restaurants, the main tourist attraction of the Huacachina are the sand dunes that can be lowered in a buggy or on a sandboard.
Around the lagoon, you will find dozens of small agencies that offer buggy tours. I advise you to choose a tour that leaves around 4pm to be able to admire the sunset from the dunes.
At sunset, our guide-driver takes us back to a point where all the buggies meet. This is probably the best place to admire the sunset.
The view is magnificent and we are very lucky to be able to enjoy this exceptional moment which, unfortunately, does not last long.
You can also climb the dunes on your own (and for free) to enjoy the sunset. In the desert, believe me it's an incredible sight.
If you prefer to rest, you can rent a pedal boat for 2 people (20 soles) or a small rowing boat for 5-6 people (30 soles).
You can also swim in the lagoon, but… I don't recommend it because the water is not clean!
Ica is the region of wine and pisco in Peru!
There are several wineries that you can visit on your own or take a day tour.
On their own
With a guided tour
La Huacachina is the ideal place to party, with several bars and hostels, which attract many backpackers.
When you return to Ica from La Huacachina, I recommend that you make a few stops:
Just 7 minutes from Ica is also Cachiche, nicknamed the "Town of the Witches". There is a statue “Bruja de Cachiche” in honor of Julia Hernández, the most famous witch in Cachiche, and the “Palmera de Siete Cabezas”, a huge tree with a very special appearance.
The Paracas National Reserve is one of the best destinations in Peru!
Here are the Ballestas Islands that are home to some 4000 sea lions, as well as a multitude of birds, fish and dolphins.
They are visited with a boat trip from Paracas, which also allows us to see El Candelabro, a 150 m long geoglyph traced on the ground.
You can also go to the beaches of Paracas such as Playa Roja (a good place to take photos!), El Raspón or La Mina, and eat seafood in one of the small restaurants in the Bay of Lagunillas.
The city of Nazca is known for its large lines drawn on the ground by the Nazca people over about 750 km².
It is a huge territory but you can see the main figures (ex: the hummingbird, the spider, the monkey) with a flight of about 30 minutes.
I do not recommend it if you have vertigo, but if not, I recommend it 100% because it is the only way to understand the magnitude of this emblematic site of Peru.
In addition to the Nazca lines, you can also visit the Chauchilla cemetery, the Antonini archaeological museum, the Cahuachi site, and the Cantalloc aqueducts.
My last recommendation, but not least: the Oasis of Morón!
I visited it in 2009 and I was very impressed because, unlike La Huacachina, it was completely virgin and nobody was there.
Of course, today it is a bit more known, especially by Peruvian tourists, but it is still not very crowded and not very developed.
It is a small and beautiful oasis surrounded by vegetation, where you can swim, rent sandboards (15 soles for 1h30), and take a kayak ride (5 soles per person, 40 min).
There are some cabins that serve as bathrooms and rustic dressing rooms. There are also tables with a shaded area, perfect if you want to bring your lunch (but there is no restaurant).
Fortunately, we can still say that the Oasis of Morón is a much less touristy alternative to the Oasis of La Huacachina. You better enjoy it now!
How to get to the Oasis of Morón from Lima:
How to get there from Paracas:
From Lima to Ica, the bus trip takes between 4 to 5 hours and the ticket costs approximately 40 soles. Once in Ica, the journey to Huacachina takes 10 minutes by taxi. Drivers at the bus terminal will charge you around 10 soles.
You will not need more mobility once you have arrived. The city of Huacachina is small and visitors can walk from one end to the other in a few minutes.
Huacachina is a perfect destination at any time of the year. The weather is always very sunny and warm during the day, with an average of 25 degrees. February and March are the hottest months. You will only feel the difference in weather at night: during winter, the night temperature can drop as much as 14 degrees.
There are many restaurants around the city and one of the best options is Desert Nights Youth, located on Huacachina boulevard. This is a hostel but it also has a restaurant where they serve great food and drinks that you can enjoy with an amazing view of the lagoon.
La Casa de Avinoam, the restaurant located in Hostal Carola del Sur, has delicious thin-crust pizzas. Prices range from 20 soles for a personal pizza to 50 soles for a large family-size pizza.
For those looking for tasty foreign food, head to La Casa de Bamboo, located on a small lot between Carola del Sur and Hosteria Suiza. They serve tasty Thai curry, exquisite falafel (popular with Arab and Israeli travelers), as well as other foreign and Peruvian dishes.
Most of the larger hotels have their own bars, including Casa de Arena and El Huacachinero. One of the only bars that is not associated with a hotel is Da Silva House, located next to Casa de Arena. Cocktails there cost between 10 and 15 soles, and the owner prepares many types of mixed drinks and cocktails.
Many are the routes that take you to Machu Picchu, but none is like the Inca Trail Tours, the most famous pedestrian path in the Americas. After flying from the capital of Perú, Lima, you will arrive in Cusco to walk for four days along a path through forests and dense fog, millenary stone steps and discovering the ruins of ancient fortifications and Inca cities, and all the time enjoying majestic views.