Huacachina is one of the most fascinating destinations in Peru. This Instagram famous desert oasis is home to some of the biggest sand dunes in the world. The array and variety of Huacachina tours to the sand dunes and neighbouring towns and destinations make it a must-visit in Peru.
I was lucky enough to have spent almost three months in Peru. I discovered countless ways to spend my time visiting the world-famous Machu Picchu to surfing and finding the heads of elongated mummies.
The latter of which you can do on a Huacachina tour. There is much more to this place than the sand, although that is probably why you will find yourself in this incredible little town.
In this piece, you will find details on Haucachina tours, the best places to stay and transport in and out of the area. Being a desert oasis it can be a little trickier than you think.
Getting to Huacachina/Ica
To reach one town you must enter the other or vice vera.
Ica is located along the Pacific Highway, roughly 6 hours south of Lima. Most buses including Cruz del
You can organise Huacachina day trip tours from Lima via tour operators or from some larger hostels. This will involve rising early and returning late in the evening. Many people taking this option will also combine a trip to the Nazca lines.
If you are travelling from the South of Peru you will most likely depart from Cuzco or Arequipa. This journey can be long and reaches high altitudes. I would recommend getting a night bus so you can save money on accommodation and maximise your time in Huacachina.
You can also reach Paracas from Lima and combine this with a day tour but we will look at these Huacachina tours more in-depth below.
- to Lima: 6 Hours by bus
- to Arequipa: 11 hours by bus
- to Paracas: 2 hours by bus
- to Nazca: 75-minute flight
Huacachina tours and other things to do
Huacachina is quite small so depending on how much you like it here you might stay just one day or many. Here is a list of Huacachina tours and other activities to do while there.
Dune buggy and sandboarding
This will most likely be your primary motivation for visiting the desert oasis. Sandboarding in Huacachina is some of the most found I had in South America. It’s scary, a little dangerous, scenic and so much fun.
You can book tours through your accommodation in Ica or better yet travel to Huacachina and book directly from a shop. This is the quickest and cheapest option, especially if you have some decent Spanish.
Aim to be in a group as this is the best way to bargain for a decent price. We managed to get the tour for $25 per person which was pretty reasonable and we got to depart immediately.
There are three times for the tours at 10.00 am and 1.00 pm and 4.00 pm. This is to minimise the traffic on the dunes and to avoid the intense heat of the desert sun.
The tours last between 1.5 to 2 hours. Your time is split between riding in the dune buggies and sandboarding/skiing. Riding in the buggy is by far the most fun as the drivers are exceptionally good and with some enticement will go even faster.
Whatever you do, don’t drop your phone as you will never find it. This, unfortunately, happened to one person in our party. Losing all his trip photos and putting a bit of a dampener on his experience.
The views from the dunes and the fun of riding down them are incredible and you will definitely be wanting to go again. If you stay awhile you will have that opportunity.
- Daily departures: 10.00AM, 1.00PM, 4.00PM
- Average Price: $35 (Group discounts)
- Duration: 2 hours
Go for a Relaxing drive:
If you are not feeling up to the extreme driving and facing off against the Huacachina sand dunes then you can also go on a private tour. I would presume these bring you to some of the scenic sites and also give you the opportunity to view tourist riding the dunes.
This is ideal for those with small children or who simply don’t feel up to the more adventurous activities.
For both activities bring clothes you don’t mind being covered in the sand and also some water and snacks if you think it is needed. Beer is also a favourite alternative for the groups.
Things to do in Huacachina
As the oasis is geared entirely towards tourism you will find a number of bars and clubs in which to enjoy the night. Wild Rover hostel recently opened its doors here with its own swimming pool and nightclub. This is one of my favourite hostel chains in the world, so I highly recommend it.
You will also find some great restaurants in the area too if you fancy a nice meal.
Huacachina tours to other locations
Huachina is a great location to base yourself if you want to explore other popular destinations in the region. With plenty of history and natural beauty around you will have plenty to choose from. Here are some of the most popular Huacachina tours to other destinations
Visit the Nazca lines from Haucachina/Ica:
The mysterious Nazca lines are one of Peru’s most famous sights. The huge stone depictions have left many baffled as to their purpose and reason. This mystery only makes them more popular among travellers.
You can visit the Nazca lines on a day tour from Huacachina or Ica either by bus or by plane.
Seeing the Nazca lines by plane is the best way to see the formations, though it can be expensive for those on a budget. Flights from Ica airport average $250 while from Nazca airport they are usually close to $100.
There may also be additional taxes and entrance fees. As I did not visit the lines I cannot say with certainty the overall cost.
There is also a bus option. But many I met said that for the views it simply was not worth the time to visit. The viewing platform does not give a clear view of the formations.
- Cost: $250 from Ica or $100 from Nazca
- Duration: 70 minutes from Ica and 35 minutes
Huacachina tours to the poor mans Galapagos/ Ballestas Islands
The poor mans Galapagos is just that. Having been spoiled by visiting the Galapagos during my first visit to South America these islands had a big contender.
While I was not blown away by the islands, when on a budget during the right time of year these would be amazing to visit. With an incredible array of birds, seals and dolphins on display the islands are a great introduction to the potential of the Galapagos.
Unfortunately, we visited during the dry season so the marine life was not there, to say the least. We did manage to find some seals and plenty of birds. But that is the luck with nature, you never know if it will be amazing or a dud.
As it is an early morning trip you can easily make it back to Huacachina. Ideal for some evening activities or to catch a night bus if you are departing from Huacachina.
Huacachina tours to Paracas national park:
Where the Ballestas islands have the animal life, Paracas national park has the scenery. A rugged, rocky desert scenery but scenery non-the-less.
I had combined my visit to Ballestas Islands and Paracas and I should have just stayed with the islands. The views and formations here are pretty underwhelming and it added to a long day unnecessarily.
These tours can both be half-day tours or combined. My group finished our Huacachina tour to both locations by 2 pm giving us plenty of time to catch a night bus to Lima from Ica.
If you are savvy enough and with a little Spanish there is also a local bus which runs along the Pacific highway that you can catch. It is much cheaper than the scheduled buses from Ica, although it might be slightly more uncomfortable.
Other Huacachina tour options:
On the Dunes:
Although it’s not possible to drive one of the dune buggies due to safety issues you can ride a Quad bike.
I am not entirely sure of the prices but I have read online that $75 is average. Just be a little careful I travelled with a girl who managed to lose all her front teeth by flipping her quad. How this was possible I am still not sure.
This region of Peru is also home to the infamous elongated heads. What looks very alien is really just the Incas getting a little too creative with their headdresses. You can visit the anthropology museum in Lima or visit the archaeology museum in Ica which has a small number of elongated heads along with a great collection of ceramics and textiles.
Peru Hop is one of the most well established and professional tour companies in Peru and Bolivia. They provide fast, efficient transport throughout the countries to some of the key locations.
They offer one and multi-day trips from Lima to Huacachina and other locations throughout Southern Peru and are a great option for those stuck on time.
Their Huacachcina tours incorporate all which is mentioned in this piece and includes other trips such as the slavery tunnels and Pisco Vineyard tours. I had my fair share of Pisco sours already so I didn’t need to visit a Vineyard.
Things to consider:
- There are no atm’s in Huacachina so you should get your cash out in Ica and always use the ATMs inside the bank.
- Accommodation in Ica is considerably cheaper than Huacachina and this is the same for food. Though for convenience staying in Huacachina is a better option.
- The town itself is a little run-down but there is plenty of Huacachina tours to distract you from this.
- Paracas is another great alternative to base yourself from, but only during the tourist season as it was a ghost town when we visited. Unless you are looking for some peace and quiet that is.