Have you ever witnessed the raw beauty of a desert oasis? We hadn’t. We figured the only way to experience such a unique eco-system would be to travel to Northern Africa or the Middle East.
You can imagine our surprise when a fellow traveller recommended we visit the giant sand dunes of Huacachina, located south of Lima on the Pacific coast of Peru.
“Sandboarding in Peru?” we replied. What was this guy talking about?
It turns out, the Huacachina sand dunes are the highest sand dunes in South America, reaching a height of up to 500 meters. What better way to experience these dunes, than to go sand boarding?
If you’ve never been sand boarding before and think you’d like to give it a try, read on to learn about our experience and how you can do this thrilling activity in Peru!
Where Can I Go Sandboarding Peru?
When we thought of Peru, images of Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest came to mind. Not sand dunes and dry barren desert.
It turns out that Huacachina is not only the best place to go sand boarding, but the only place. It’s the only known desert oasis in South America, and is located 4.5 hours away from Lima by bus.
We were told the sand boarding was excellent, but we weren’t convinced until our new friend reached into his pocket and pulled out his digital camera.
The photos didn’t lie.
There he was, standing in front of a placid desert lake with enormous sand dunes towering in the backdrop.
It didn’t take much further convincing. Sand boarding, dune buggy rides and poolside lounging was right up our alley.
How to Get to Huacachina
There are many ways to get to Huacachina, but you must first reach the nearby city of Ica, which is just a 10-minute taxi ride from Huacachina.
This is where you can base yourself in civilization before heading out for a day trip on the dunes.
Most people opt to take the 4.5 hour bus from Lima, Peru’s Capital, but you can also take an overnight bus from Arequipa, which is what we did.
From Cusco, you can take a 20 hour bus ride to Huacachina.
We opted for first class seating with Oltursa (tourist class bus company) but you can also take a public bus for a cheaper price.
The overnight bus arrived at the larger city of Ica (the hub for Huacachina) about 10 hours later.
Our Experience Sand Boarding in Huacachina
The village of Huacachina is built around a small natural lake in the Peruvian desert. It’s become an increasingly popular tourist attraction for adventurers drawn to sand boarding and high speed dune buggy rides.
Though we thoroughly enjoy lazy afternoons by the pool, our objective for Huacachina was to play in the sand.
There are several tour operators located right in the village, offering morning and evening trips into the dunes when the sand is cooler.
We decided to pick a tour that had a sand boarding and dune buggy combo. Opting for a dune buggy ride is a great way to experience several dunes to sand board, since you can drive along and stop when you see a good spot to take your board.
The thrill of the dune buggy is a rush like no other. It was more than just a thrill ride, but a way to scout out good sandboarding spots.
Our buggy driver loved his job. His evil yet gentile grin was unmistakable. He thoroughly enjoyed scary the crap out of his guests!
Have you ever been in a vehicle that speeds up as it approaches a cliff drop?
The feeling is similar to the feeling you get when on a roller coaster that is slowly climbing up its first peak, just before you’re about to descend.
Only in the desert, it’s the real deal.
Our lives were placed in the hands of our driver. Though skilled at his craft, the element of danger is undoubtedly present, adding to the thrill.
We explored the sand dunes at high speeds, stopping periodically to test out the sand boards.
If you’re like us and enjoy big mountain snowboarding, ease your expectations when sand boarding.
Though some of the dunes were quite steep, it’s still quite difficult to get the kind of speed that a skier or snowboarder is accustomed to.
Nevertheless, it’s a great way to spend an evening!
That is, until you bail and tumble down the sand dune, covering your sweaty body with sand from head to toe.
The only downside was having to walk back up the sandy slopes.
If you find that you’re struggling to stay standing on your board, no worries, just lie on your stomach and go sand sledding instead!
You can also, if you don’t like having your feet strapped together, try skiing instead. We heard that sand skis are a little harder to manoeuvre in the sand, but plenty of people prefer it to sand boarding.
Sand Boarding Tip: Use an old snowboard with proper bindings and boots if available. Otherwise you’re likely to be strapped to a heavy wooden plank with poor control.
Best Time to Go Sand Boarding in Huacachina
Sandboarding tours operate all year round, but the best time to visit is from May through to November.
This is during the winter months in Peru and is when you will find cooler temperatures and less rain.
Sunset is the most popular time of day to go sand boarding since the sun is less strong.
What to Bring Sandboarding Huacachina
If you’re not sure what to take with you, or what to wear, then here’s what we suggest:
- Sunglasses. Even if you opt for a sunset tour, the sun reflecting off the golden sand is dazzling. Plus, it helps keep sand out of your eyes when the dune buggy is going full speed.
- A GoPro. This neat little adventure sport camera is going to help you get the best shots of you sliding down the dunes without the photos coming out blurry.
- Sunscreen. It can get quite cool in the desert at night, but in the day time the sun is strong. Protect yourself and put on sunscreen.
- Loose fitting clothes. It will help you manouver on the board.
- Sturdy shoes. You will need to be strapped into your sand board with your shoes on so make sure you have trainers, not flip flops or sandals.
- Long socks. If you are renting shoes for sand boarding, you’ll want long socks to protect your ankles from rubbing against the boots.
FAQs About Sandboarding in Huacachina
Here’s what visitors usually ask us about sandboarding in Huacachina…
How long do I need in Huacachina?
There is more to see and do in Huacachina than just sandboarding, but you don’t need more than a day to experience it all.
Can you swim in the Huacachina lagoon?
Yes, you can swim in the lake or take a relaxing boat cruise.
Is Huacachina worth visiting?
Yes, absolutely. The Huacachina Oasis is the only desert oasis in South America and is simply gorgeous, not to mention thrilling with the sandboarding experience. It’s a totally unique place, so for that reason, it’s definitely worth visiting.
How much does sand boarding cost in Huacachina?
It usually costs around 100 Peruvian Soles ($25 USD) to go sand boarding in Huacachina for around 2 hours. This price includes your guide/instructor and equipment. You can also find guided tours from Ica that offer a combo of sand boarding and dune buggy rides, which costs around $25 USD. This price is on top of the $3.7 Soles entrance fee.
Final Thoughts on Sandboarding in Huacachina
Although we didn’t expect it, sand boarding in Huacachina was one of the highlights on our Peru itinerary.
The Huacachina Oasis is gorgeous, and offers a combination of relaxation with a freshwater pool, and adrenaline, with the thrilling sandboarding experience.
Our lesson learned, there’s a lot more to Peru than the Incan Lost City of Machu Picchu!
More posts on South America
- 20 of the best places to visit in South America
- 15 Important Things to Know Before You Visit Buenos Aires
- 5 Places to Visit in Bolivia, South America
- A 10 day itinerary of Peru
- Insiders Guide: What to Do in Medellin, Colombia
- 11 Things you need to know before visiting Colombia
- Which side of Iguazu Falls is better? Brazil vs Argentina
The Traveling Canucks are Nicole and Cameron Wears, a newlywed couple that currently reside in beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia on the west coast of Canada. A passion for travel and adventure sparked a 2009 round the world journey that changed their lives forever. Join them at Traveling Canucks where they share travel stories from around the globe, or follow them on twitter.