Sandboarding capital of Peru, Huacachina is a tiny idyllic desert oasis where we chose to lose ourselves for a few days after the hard slog of our Machu Picchu trek.
On the night bus from Cuzco we met a cool Canadian couple (also riding upfront on the top of the bus – clearly the coolest seats in the house!) and we became good pals. After another VERY bumpy night bus (bloody Andes!) we arrived bleary-eyed and blinking blindly in the bright hot sunshine, a surprise to our skin and our retinas after so much time in high altitude, cloudy, chilly Cuzco. Things immediately felt different as we piled into a local tiny taxi, the driver blaring Snoop Dogg (‘smoke weed every day!’) out the radio, surrounded by colossal sand dunes, beach bums and dune buggies everywhere. It felt like holiday!
Desert life with our Canadian buddies
The oasis in the middle of town…
The oasis town of Huacachina is literally a tiny little lake (think small British park pond-sized) surrounded by palm trees, dusty hostels, and a few touristy restaurants. Then beyond that, it’s just sand, sand, sand! Insanely high, unspoiled dunes that put the Sahara Desert to shame. After a wonder around town (2 minutes) we haggled down a good deal on a hostel with a cute pool, bar and outside seating area, and got our holiday vibes on!
This pretty much set the tone for the next few days, with the four of us hanging out poolside listening to music, drinking beer, and alternating between sunbathing and splashing around in the cool water. Another Canadian couple also happened to be staying in the hotel who also knew how to party, and we had one of their birthdays in Huacachina which only added to the party spirit…though I must confess me and Sam slept through the biggest party after conking out at 7 after too much daytime party! Hello (nearly) 30s!!
Partying in the pool out back!
Oh, and of course, we also did what we’d gone there for… Sandboarding! Our dune buggy had to be the most beaten up, oldest buggy on the scene but it could still go hell for leather, ripping through the dunes like a manic derailed rollercoaster ride! We went up the dunes at sunset, when the sand is cooler, and the funnest bit was probably actually the pre-boarding buggy ride (rather than the boarding!) You’re basically going up and down nearly vertical dunes on a huge dune buggy, taking mad corners, unable to see when the next near-vertical drop is as you inch up and around big sand mountains. It’s totally exhilarating and pretty much like a really scary rollercoaster… With the added element that it’s genuinely very dangerous! We’ve heard of buggies going over, people getting serious whiplash.. You just have to trust your driver!
Preparing to sandboard…
Then to the boarding itself. So you’re given a waxed snowboard and the instructor basically advised us that it’s really hard to do it standing up (apart from on the smaller dunes) so you just lie on it, belly down, legs up, and hope for the best! We did a mix of smaller (still terrifying) dunes and bigger (insane) dunes and it was super fun but also pretty daunting! If you don’t keep your legs up, the board can flip and then you’re flipping all the way down the dune, so you just have to go with it, and once you surrender to the crazy speed and the sand going EVERYWHERE on your person, it’s awesome. We went with a group from our hostel and all supported each other going down one by one, wailing and screeching as we went!
Our dune buggy and boards
Afterwards we paused to watch the sunset but it was pretty clouded over, so we decided to use the spare time to get one last dune in.
Evenings (when not poolside) were spent seeking out cheapish food options from the supertourismo rezzos (which one evening even entailed getting a tuc-tuc to a nearby major town. Gotta be frugal!) and getting to know our new buds a bit better.
After a few nights, we felt rested, rejuvenated and nicely restored from the adventure and fun of our time in the desert. And ready for our next big town, capital city Lima…