๐Ÿœ๏ธ Huacachina Day Trip: Firsthand Review & Tips

A woman standing in a desert holding a sand board.
๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating7.5
๐Ÿฆ„ UniquenessHigh
๐Ÿ˜Š EnjoymentHigh
๐Ÿ’ฐ ValueAffordable
๐ŸŽ’ PreparationMinimal
Overall Rating is based on a weighted average of factors (learn more).

Huacachina, a small village in Peru that surrounds a small natural lake, is the only desert oasis in South America. Here, I review my day trip experience with a coherent rating system before sharing firsthand tips.

Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. When you buy with my affiliate link, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

๐Ÿ€ Lukiih’s Overall Rating

7.5
I highly recommend a day trip to Huacachina โ€“ try to prioritize it.

My overall rating is based on a weighted average of four factors travelers consider important when assessing an experience. I break down the factors in my review below.

Verdict

I highly recommend visiting Huacachina as a day trip. This tiny village is visited by thousands of people every year for good reasons: the landscape is striking, and the sandboarding and dune buggy riding are thrilling.

The day trip is moderately priced, and tours typically include food, transportation, guides, and all the entertainment.

Minimal preparation is required, as you need to book tickets ahead, dress appropriately for the dessert (and potential boat ride), and sit in a vehicle for several hours.

No prior sandboarding experience is required, so first-timers like me can have a great time.

A woman laying flat on a board sliding down a steep sand dune.
Sandboarding in Huacachina

Planning a trip? Here’sย what to know about Peru.

๐Ÿ† Where Does It Rank?

A day trip to Huacachina ranks as my #2 thing to do in Peru. Here’s how it compares to other experiences on my trip:

#ExperienceLocationOverall Rating
1โ›ฐ๏ธ Inca Trail to Machu PicchuCusco8.0
2๐Ÿœ๏ธ Huacachina Day TripIca7.5
3๐Ÿ›๏ธ Cusco CityCusco6.8
4๐Ÿž๏ธ Sacred ValleyCusco6.7
5๐ŸŒˆ Rainbow MountainCusco5.7
6๐ŸŒณ Costa VerdeLima5.9
Overall Rating is calculated using Lukiihโ€™s rating system.

See myย Peru itineraryย featuring the experiences above.

โœˆ๏ธ About My Trip

For context on my review, here’s what to know about my trip:

  • ๐Ÿ€ย Self-fundedย โ€“ I finance my trips and don’t receive sponsorship, so this review reflects my honest opinions.
  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2022 โ€“ This post has updated 2024 information, but I visited Huacachina in 2022.
  • โ˜€๏ธ Shoulder season โ€“ My Peru trip was in April when it was becoming more crowded and expensive.

๐Ÿฆ„ Uniqueness: High

The Uniqueness Score is based on how rare and memorable an experience is.

Rarity: Uncommon

Visiting Huacachina is an uncommon experience, as only roughly 20 deserts with thrilling sandboarding exist worldwide.

๐Ÿ’Ž What Makes It Rare?

  • It’s South America’s only desert oasis.
  • The combination of having a natural desert lake and massive sand dunes for sandboarding makes it rare.

Huacachina hosts the Sandboarding World Championship, which attracts international athletes every year.

A woman walking down a steep sand dune overlooking a village with trees.
Huacachina sand dune

๐ŸŒ What Makes It Less Rare?

  • Several places worldwide have massive dunes and sandboarding, including Morocco’s Sahara Desert, Chile’s Atacama Desert, and Namibia’s Namib Desert.

Memorability: High

Huacachina is one of my most memorable experiences in Peru.

๐Ÿ“ธ What Makes It Memorable?

  • The landscape and desert sunsets look unreal. From the top of a dune, youโ€™ll see a small lake surrounded by palm trees and endless mountains of sand.
A sun setting over a vast desert with sand dunes.
Huacachina sunset

๐Ÿ’ค What Makes It Forgettable?

  • Unlike the orange sand in Namibia, the sand color is ordinary, so the landscape isn’t as otherworldly.

๐Ÿ˜Š Enjoyment: High

The Enjoyment Score is based on how much happiness and reward an experience provides.

Happiness: High

I found visiting Huacachina fun and thrilling.

๐Ÿ˜ƒ What Makes It Enjoyable?

  • Itsย massive sand dunesย make it a popular destination for adventure sports, like sandboarding and dune buggy rides. I found both thrilling.
Two people standing on a roof of an open vehicle on sand.
Dune buggy

๐Ÿ˜ฅ What Makes It Less Enjoyable?

  • The journey to Huacachina from Lima is long.
  • Most day trip tours don’t spend the entire time in the village, as they usually make other stops (e.g., Nazca Lines, Las Ballesta Island, and Pisco vineyards).

Reward: Low

A Huacachina day trip is not a particularly rewarding experience.

๐ŸŒŸ What Makes It Rewarding?

  • Standing on a board can feel rewarding if you’ve never sandboarded before.
  • Hiking up a sand dune is challenging and I felt accomplished afterward.

๐Ÿคท๐Ÿปโ€โ™€๏ธ What Makes It Less Rewarding?

  • You don’t learn about the lake or village, so it’s not culturally enriching.
  • There are many activities, but each is relatively short, so there’s no real opportunity to test your endurance or improve your sandboarding skills.

๐Ÿ’ฐ Value: Affordable

The Value Score is determined by the price divided by the duration of an experience. All prices mentioned here are in USD.

Price: $130 PP

A day trip to Huacachina from Lima costs between $120 and $145. The tour lasts 16 to 18 hours and includes transportation, meals, attractions, and entrance fees.ย At about $8 per hour, I consider this experience affordable.

Tipping is customary for tourists in Peru, so expect to add another $10 or $15 to the total.

I booked my trip with the highly-rated Peru Hop and paid $135. Here are the prices of other well-rated tour companies (I last checked prices in May 2024):

Seeย my Peru trip expenses.

๐ŸŽ’ Preparation: Moderate

The Preparation Score is based on the required skills & fitness, transportation, and bookings & packing. The higher the score, the less preparation is needed.

Skills & Fitness: None

You don’t need any skills or fitness to visit Huacachina. Some operators, like mine, offer a strenuous hike up a large sand dune, but it’s optional.

Sandboarding in Huacachina is safe for first-timers. You can stand up if you can, but most visitors lie face down on their boards. Also, only licensed professional drivers are allowed to drive dune buggies.

Transportation: Significant

Huacachina is located in the Ica region of Peru.

  • ๐Ÿš Method โ€“ The nearest city doesn’t have an airport, so you have to get there by vehicle.
  • โฐ Duration โ€“ The journey from Lima is long and takes 4.5 hours. This is why most tour companies break up the drive by stopping at other attractions.

Booking & Packing: Minimal

To visit Huacachina, youโ€™ll need minimal booking and packing:

  • ๐ŸŽŸ๏ธย Reservations โ€“ Book a tour operator at least one to two days ahead.
  • ๐ŸŽ’ย Packing Pack and wear appropriate clothes for a long day trip, an island tour, and desert weather.

How To Guide & Tips

Interested in visiting Huacachina after reading my review? Below is a practical how-to guide and firsthand tips.

How To Get There

Huacachina and the nearby city of Ica do not have a commercial airport, so your only option is to travel by vehicle.

  • ๐Ÿš Organized tour โ€“ The best option that balances convenience and affordabilityย is to book an organized tour with a good track record.
  • ๐Ÿš• Private taxi โ€“ The most convenient and expensive option is to hire a private taxi, which can depart on your schedule, allowing more flexibility.
  • ๐ŸšŒ Bus โ€“ Local buses run daily from Lima to Ica. From Ica, youโ€™ll have to take a 10-minute taxi to Huacachina. The bus is cheap but not geared towards tourists, so navigating the bus system and ensuring safety can be challenging.
  • ๐Ÿš™ Rental car โ€“ While the highway connecting Lima and Huacachina is straightforward, most people do not rent cars in Peru for various reasons, including poor road conditions, rental car affordability, unstable cell signal, and aggressive drivers.

Top of guide โ†‘

What To Wear & Pack

A Huacachina day trip lasts over 16 hours and typically involves sandboarding and riding a boat, dune buggy, and bus. Here’s what to wear and pack:

  • Snacks โ€“ Itโ€™s a long bus ride trip in the morning.
  • Water โ€“ Water is unavailable during sandboarding or riding a dune buggy, so pack some water in advance. I brought a reusable bottle that keeps water cold for hours.
  • Sunscreen โ€“ Youโ€™ll want sunscreen to protect yourself against the sun. I recommend packing sports sunscreen.
  • Cash โ€“ Bring small bills to tip your dune buggy driver.
  • Breathable tank, short sleeve, or long sleeve โ€“ Huacachina will be warm (it gets down to 68 ยฐF during the winters), so you want to wear something athletic and breathable. For more protection, opt for a sun hoodie.
  • Breathable shorts, leggings, or loose pants โ€“ I wore leggings, my partner wore shorts, and I saw other people wearing loose pants. All of these options work.
  • Sunglasses โ€“ When you slide down a sand dune or ride a dune buggy, youโ€™ll want athletic sunglasses to protect you from the wind and sand.
  • Light hiking shoes โ€“ Running shoes are fine, but you might feel more comfortable with the extra support of lightweight hiking shoes.
  • Buff โ€“ Itโ€™s a good idea to buy a buff to protect your face from the wind and sand. Many vendors in Huacachina will try to sell you one if you’re not wearing one.
  • Raincoat (optional) โ€“ The region’s wet season runs from January to March.
  • Light jacket (optional) โ€“ The long bus ride can have the AC set to very high.
  • Earplugs & sleeping masks (optional) โ€“ Pickup is between 4 and 6 am, and arrival can be as late as midnight. Consider bringing earplugs and a sleeping mask for the bus ride.
  • Sports bra (optional) โ€“ Given the activities, I wore and recommend wearing a sports bra over a regular bra.
  • Sun hat (optional) โ€“ I didnโ€™t bring one, but I saw visitors wearing one for extra sun protection.
A woman standing on top of a sand dune and surrounded by desert.
Huacachina outfit

Top of guide โ†‘

Peru Trip Planner 2024

To make your travel preparation easier, download the trip planner below. It has destination-specific travel information, itinerary, map, and packing list.

My trip planners are built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning. I genuinely love this tool and creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Peru trip planner.

Thoughts? Questions? Leave a comment below.

๐Ÿง‹ Support Lukiih

Lists by Lukiih is a humble website that I fund with my own savings. If you find my tips helpful, I appreciate you saying thanks with a bubble tea!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *