Near the city of Ica, one finds a small village oasis known as Huacachina. Although its permanent population is small, it’s become a tiny resort town for nearby families, who visit to go to the restaurants and resorts and paddle-boat around the lagoon, and for foreign tourists who visit to go sandboarding or take dune buggy rides down its surrounding dunes.
You can arrange a combination dune buggy / sandboarding tour from Ica city. The dune buggies are small, but can go quite fast, which combined with the rough terrain can mean some thrilling dune jumping! The cheapest option is to go with a group of other travelers in an 8-person dune buggy. Obviously, the more people in the group, the lower the price is.
Afterwards, one visits the dunes surrounding Huacachina, which are very large- some can take an hour to climb on foot! You get a quick lesson on sandboarding safety and techniques and can practice on smaller dunes before jumping off some of the large ones.
Most dune buggy tours last two to three hours, including an hour of sandboarding. If you can, think about choosing a late-afternoon tour, which starts around 4pm, so that you can still enjoy incredible views but are not struggling under the scorching desert sun. As an added benefit, some drivers will take you to one of the landscape’s natural lookouts to watch the sun set over the desert.
If you’d rather not take a tour, grab a taxi and rent a board off the street for a few soles (probably leaving some kind of guarantee). You can take a taxi from Ica to Huacachina for S/4 to 5 (soles). Be warned, however, that you’ll be missing what most travelers recount as the highlight of the trip to Ica/Huacachina- the dune buggy.
The town itself has little more than the surrounding desert and striking tranquil views to recommend it, because food and product prices are higher than in Ica. Also, there is only one ATM in town, at Huacachinero hostal, and it’s unreliable, so think about just bringing water, snacks, and emergency cash from Ica. Huacachina is best for a short visit, some stunning photo opportunities, and a real “desert oasis” experience; it really isn’t large enough for you to plan more than a quick daytrip.