Hike-in Required
No
Open Year-round
Yes
ADA accessible
No
Guided tours
Yes
Please respect the outdoors by practicing Leave No Trace. Learn more about how to apply the principles of Leave No Trace on your next outdoor adventure here.

Huacachina is a bona fide oasis in the desert—a lagoon surrounded by palm trees and giant sand dunes. It's something you might expect in legends from the Sahara, but instead of Africa it's in the Atacama Desert of Peru. A small lake occurs naturally by groundwater seeping out through the sand, and it smells slightly of sulfur. Around the perimeter is a small town that caters to tourists, but outside the town is a vast, deserted expanse of rolling sand. The Huacachine Sand Dunes are some of the largest sand dunes in South America, and they're even larger than most dunes elsewhere in the world. Some of them rise a few hundred feet from base to summit. Two of the tallest tower directly over town on each side, north and south, leaving the oasis of green dramatically dwarfed between twin mountains of sand.

From the town of Huacachina, it's very easy to explore the dunes. Simply leave the street at the west end of town and hike up the sand. The big dune on the north edge of town is the most popular to hike up. In the evening you'll find a spectacular sunset from its summit, and always a great vantage over the seemingly endless dune field that stretches away to the southwest. To the east and north lies the city of Ica, and high mountains are on the horizon beyond.

Hiking way out in the dunes is possible, but not recommended because of motorized traffic. Dune buggy tours roar off en masse every afternoon, and private or rental vehicles may be out at any time of day. Walking anywhere beneath the crest of a dune puts you in danger because drivers can't always see what's on the other side before it's too late. If you do walk farther out in the dunes, try to follow footprints used by plenty of other people, walk on the crest of dunes where you are visible, and stay out of places with lots of tire tracks. Walking up the big north dune is safe because drivers know to be careful of people around there.

Another popular way to enjoy the dunes is sandboarding and sand skiing. Sand sleds are included as part of the buggy tours, but if you want to strap in and stand up, you'll need to bring your own board or rent one in town. You can take your board on a buggy tour or hike it up the dune yourself. The big dune on the south side of town even has a slalom line and sand jumps sometimes set up (fee may be required for use).

The oasis town of Huacachina is just outside the city of Ica, easily reachable by taxi. Tour operators frequently run day and overnight trips from Lima to Huacachina as well. Around the oasis you'll find a small spread of hotels, hostels, restaurants, and shops. It's easy to arrange a buggy tour the day of, or to simply ignore the numerous tour hawkers and hike up a dune on your own, then run or sandboard down.

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

High

Parking Pass

None

Pros

South America's largest sand dunes. Free access. Great views.

Cons

Dune buggy traffic.

Pets allowed

Allowed

Features

Family friendly
Guided tours
Sand Dunes
Big vistas

Location

Field Guide

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