Huacachina - a sand-boarding oasis (especially by sunset!)
Travelling from Arequipa to Lima, we made a stop off in between a Huacachina - a tiny oasis town just outside of Ica which is famous for it’s masses of sand dunes that hundreds of tourists flock to every-day to cruise around in dune-buggies and sand-board down the steepest that they can find.
We booked our hostel - Banana’s Adventure - a week or so prior to arriving, as we had friends who had recommended we stay here due to it’s awesome vibe, swimming pool, and the fact that they sell you a great combo deal which includes accomodation + a free tour for each night that you stay. We arrived in Ica around 10am, and after a short 10 minute taxi ride into Huacachina, we were warmly welcomed to Banana’s by the friendly staff at reception. Although our room was not yet ready for check-in, we were offered the use of the pool, showers, bar, storage, and anything else that we may need - we instantly made ourselves at home, finding two spare sun-bed’s next to the pool, putting on our swimmers, and soaking up the Huacachina sunshine (which was definitely bitey!) It had been a while since we have enjoyed some rest and relaxation, and Banana’s definitely delivered on this front!
We had no plans for the day until 5pm, which was when we were booked in for our dune-buggy tour (which the hostel organises for you, and you get a choice of 3 x different sessions per day), so come lunch-time we went for a walk around the town. This took us no more than half an hour to wander down every main street as it is quite small! Every mini-mart, cafe, restaurant, and street vendor that we came across were quite expensive, even for simple things like water and fruit - we would highly recommend if coming from a bigger town to bring any foods/drinks that you may need with you and save yourself some pennies! After browsing the streets for something to eat, we came to the realisation that the food at our hostel was much cheaper than any of the restaurants around the town, so we headed back to our funky beach-party-setup for lunch. Mish being a vegetarian is usually quite used to only one or two food options to choose from when dining out in South America, but was pretty stoked when looking at the Banana’s menu and realising that she had the choice of quinoa salads, burgers, curry, sandwiches, pasta’s, stir-fry’s etc. so many different options and all meat free! We had a feeling we may not be leaving our little paradise unless necessary! (even if you aren’t staying at Banana’s, you are still welcome to come and visit their bar/restaurant for food and drinks, you just aren’t able to use their showering or pool facilities).
After some great food and more sunshine, 5pm rolled around and the dune buggies were out the front of our hostel ready to get this show on the road! About 10 of us were booked in for the afternoon, and somehow we scored the two seats up the front with the driver! Within minutes we were up on the dunes, hooning around at crazy speeds up some of the steepest dunes, only to drop back head-first down the other side, like a crazy roller-coaster ride! Almost feeling as though we were going to roll every time we turned a tight corner or came down the sheer drop on the other side, there was lots of screaming, but also lots of fun!
The drive (or roller-coaster ride!) in the dune-buggy was around 2 hours in total, and our awesome driver made sure that we stopped quite regularly for photos, and of course some sand-boarding fun! There were about 5 dunes where we parked up the top of them, waxed-up our sand-boards, strapped ourselves in like a snowboard (or you also have the option of lying down on your belly head-first, or sitting on your bum), and hooning down the dunes, trying your best to keep your balance so that you don’t come flying off! It was the best fun!
As we chose to be booked-in for the last tour of the day, we also were lucky enough to be cruising back down during sunset - something not to be missed in Huacachina with the skies turning purple, orange, and pink - we may be bias, but we think that we had the best spot to enjoy ;) Make sure when booking your sand dune tour you book in for the latest session of the day! You cannot beat the colourful sky and views, and the sand is much cooler than if you were to go in the middle of the day.
We were enjoying the paradise, sunshine, food, & atmosphere in Banana’s way too much to leave! So we spent 2 x nights here which also meant that we were entitled to another free tour (1 free tour for each night of accomodation). Day 2 we booked ourselves in for the Pisco wine tour - a three hour session where you are taken to 2 x different wineries/distilleries, and taught about the process of Pisco, and also offered approximately 50 free shots/tastings each.. this is NO exaggeration! We highly recommend this tour as we learnt a lot, drank a lot, and laughed a lot, but we also highly recommend eating beforehand :P
We had one last night to enjoy by the pool at Banana’s with good music, good people, & good happy-hour cocktails (not that we needed anymore alcohol after our Pisco tour!). We didn’t want our relaxation to end! For the first time in 4 months of backpacking it actually felt as though we were on a “holiday” rather than “travelling” - it was amazing and much needed :) Thankfully on day 3 our bus to our next destination (Paracas) was not booked until late in the afternoon, which meant we had half a day to chill-out and enjoy some more.
For anyone travelling to Huacachina, we cannot recommend Banana’s Adventure enough! But make sure that you book this one in advance (perhaps around 3-4 days before arriving at the minimum), as it’s definitely a popular place which is always at capacity - maybe that has something to do with it being the only hostel in Huacachina with a pool.. :) We would certainly say that this is a must-see town, even if just for a night or two.