Huacachina Oasis in Peru, (pronounced, hua·cachi·na,) is a sleepy place in the middle of the desert, and it is the only natural oasis on the continent and is at an altitude of 403 metres above sea level.
In Quechua, Huacachina means “weeping woman.” The legend is that the lake was formed by the tears of a beautiful green-eyed woman who wept for the death of her beloved.
The tranquil lake of greenish water looks serine and beautiful, but do not be tempted to swim in the Huacachina lagoon, it is not safe to swim in although you can rent paddle boats.
The lake is great for nature and has a variety of wildlife who thrive there, it is rich in biodiversity within the Huacachina regional conservation area, carob trees and palms surround the lake that is home to fish and a haven for birds.
Oasis De Huacachina
The Oasis of Huacachina became famous back in the day for its waters that were at the time reputed to be therapeutic, and there were even tales of it having healing powers.
Tourists from far and wide would travel to discover the Oasis De Huacachina, especially during the sixty’s era when the more prosperous Peruvians would take vacations there to enjoy the opportunity of the therapeutic water and the relaxation or the little town surrounding the oasis in the desert.
It is a small town, with just a few buildings dotted around, surrounded entirely by the towering sand mountains of the Atacama Desert: the driest desert in the world.
The lake was originally created by a natural seepage from underground aquifers. However, In the 2000’s there had been a lot of local drilling in the area which had a knock effect on the oasis and the water level was receding and so the local tourist business owners began to get worried about the effect this might have on tourist footfall.
They eventually decided to take action and invested in pumping extra water into the lake in 2015 to save the oasis.
Huacachina dune buggy and sand boarding experience
After two days in Lima, Peru’s capital, we could be on a different planet, only a four-hour bus, followed by 20-minute taxi ride, away.
We have barely put our stuff in our rooms at the Huacachina Banana hostel – Bananas Adventures- when we find ourselves strapped into the buggy and out riding the sand waves.
I’ve never been in a desert before and it’s kind of incredible – just hot, golden, undulating sand as far as the eye can see. And what better way to see it!
The buggy is flying across the sand, the speed is such that we barely touch the surface. The warm desert air whirs around my head and my knuckles whiten as we suddenly get thrown back against our plastic seats, climbing up an impossibly steep ascent at frightening pace.
The edge of the sand-mountain comes closer and closer, and I can’t see what’s on the other side, but the buggy doesn’t slow down. We hurtle recklessly towards it. My stomach drops and my eyes shut as we career over the edge into a seeming abyss, plunging down a near-vertical drop.
People scream and our Peruvian driver laughs manically. This, is dune buggying.
After the dune buggying, is the sand boarding, which is essentially surfing down a mountain of sand on a piece of wood.
The first dune we board down seems pretty damn high to me – I face plant in the effort to avoid hitting someone and hurt myself.
The second one is dizzyingly huge and the third one is downright terrifying to even the hardiest adventure-seeker.
I opt–out, ever the wuss, but feel a little better about this decision when people limp off their boards at the bottom. The only first aid that seems to be available is bottled water. The grins outweigh the injuries though.
After a gloriously well-priced BBQ and free beer at the hostel, we curl up sleepily on the many armchairs littering the hostel garden and chat to other travellers who’ve ventured into the desert.
Pisco distillery tour
Huacachina is only a two-day stop kind of a place – it’s perfect and tranquil but there’s not a lot to do.
On our second day we go on a Pisco tour. Pisco is Peru’s national spirit and has a slightly sweeter, softer flavour of tequila. Pisco is produced in Chile and Peru, it is a type of brandy, in other words, a spirit that is distilled from wine or fermented grape, the Pisco can range in colour from clear, pale yellow to amber and unlike brandy, it is unaged.
Pisco varieties are often compared to a tequila because of the herbal, earthy kind of flavours. It is best drunk in moderation with an alcohol value between 38% and 40%.
The tour involved a short introduction into the Pisco-making-process, followed by a lot of “sampling.” We mastered the Incan way of saying “cheers” and got fairly drunk as we trampled round vineyards.
After the tour and carrying a bottle of our very favourite Pisco, my boyfriend, our friend Ben, and I walked to the top of one of the largest sand dunes as the sun set – no easy feat as the sand falls away underneath your feat.
Finally at the top, we drank Pisco and stared out at the endless desert as the sky darkened and the stars appeared. In the pitch black and after a bit more Pisco, there was only one way down… running at full pelt. If you fell (as I did), you were met by only the softest sand.
If you are planning a Peruvian adventure (which if you are not, you definitely should be) build in two days to soak up the sand in a genuine desert oasis.
You will not regret it. Check into a Huacachina hostel, relax beside the oasis with a Pisco or two and a pisco tasting tour.
I would recommend booking a thrilling buggy experience on the sand dunes and try sand boarding down the biggest sand dunes, in this sub tropical desert it is so exhilarating.