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This is a guest post from our friends Cam and Nicole at Traveling Canucks. Read more about them below..
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.
“Sand dunes? In Peru?” we replied. What was this guy talking about?
When we thought of Peru, images of Machu Picchu and the Amazon Rainforest came to mind. Not sand dunes and dry barren desert.
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.
We departed from Arequipa, opting for first class seating with Oltursa (tourist class bus company). The overnight bus arrived at the larger city of Ica (the hub for Huacachina) about 10 hours later. It only takes about 4.5 hours to reach Ica from Lima, Peru’s capital.
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.
The thrill of the dune buggy is a rush like no other. Our 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?
We hadn’t. 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.
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.
Our lesson learned, there’s a lot more to Peru than the Incan Lost City of Machu Picchu!
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.
More Resources for Peru
Check out these helpful travel guides:
- Lonely Planet: Peru, 8th Edition
- DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: Peru