Long before visiting Peru, we were well aware of an oasis called Huacachina in the middle of the desert that looks truly otherworldly and magical. It's so otherworldly in fact that there has been a great deal of buzz on the Internet of people calling it fake or completely Photoshopped. "It can't be real. There aren't even any roads leading in or out of it," some have said. Either way, we had to get to the bottom of this nonsense and discover Huacachina for ourselves. Our conclusion: it's completely real and just as magical as it looks in photos.
Our first stop from Lima began in the coastal town of Paracas. Paracas is a lesser-known side of Peru, but filled with a variety of natural landscapes. The small fishing village lies within the Ica region and is about 257 kilometers (160 miles) from Lima. The town itself is pretty small with only a few dirt streets, a handful of hotels, and sea-facing restaurants serving up fresh fish of the day. We'll be the first to admit that we only ventured outside of our hotel one evening. We couldn't get ourselves to leave the beautiful Hotel Paracas.
how to get there
We started in Lima at the Cruz Del Sur bus station and hopped on a bus that took us three hours south to Paracas. The bus journey was painless and easy.
where to stay
Hotel Paracas Resort - The coastal city of Paracas is one of the most unique and beautiful spots in Peru. It could have to do with the fact that we'd just hiked Colca Canyon and Machu Picchu and were due for some serious R&R. We were blessed with warm weather and beautiful sunsets enjoyed right from our ocean view balcony every night. The property has a tropical Palm Springs 1970's vibe about it, which we loved!
We don't have any advice as to where to eat in town because Hotel Paracas has some of the best food we've had in our year of travel. With a breakfast buffet, three restaurants, an adorable wooden restaurant at the end of the pier, and even a poolside bar, we found ourselves overwhelmed with options. One of the highlights of our stay at Hotel Paracas was the fresh fish dishes -- specifically the most mouthwatering ceviche we have ever had. The hotel prides their cuisine as being eco-friendly since the fish are caught right off the dock of the property. Chalana Restaurant is famous for its 0 km concept serving fresh fish and cooking without the use of fuel or electricity.
Each night, we enjoyed an hour or two at the on-site spa. With a full thermal circuit, we found ourselves plunging into freezing pools, testing out several different showers, and soaking in the jacuzzi. The circuit has a specific rotation that's meant to improve circulation. Just what we needed to nurse our sore muscles!
what to do
Islas Ballestas - Known as the poor man's Gallapagos, this group of islands is full of a large array of birds. The most notable species are the blue-footed booby and the Humboldt penguin (basically a miniature penguin). We'll admit that we aren't the biggest fans of birds, but it was interesting to see the varieties and the unique rock formations that the birds inhabit. On the boat on the way to Islas Ballestas, we were able to see a candelabra nazca-like line. The Nazca lines are the most famous in the region, but it was neat to see one during our trip.
Imagine walking for hours and hours in deep sand to randomly stumble upon a desert oasis in the middle of the desert. Although we didn't walk for hours to arrive, we imagined what it was like the moment this phenomenon was discovered. Known to have healing water and mud, this green palm tree lined oasis was one of our favorite stops in Peru. The town of Huacachina is only 5 kilometers from the town of Ica, but has only 100 permanent residents.
how to get there
As before, we traveled via Cruz Del Sur bus two hours from Paracas to the town of Ica. In Ica, we flagged down a tuk-tuk and took the short drive to Huacachina. Our tuk tuk cost us only 5 soles ($1.50 USD).
Legend holds that the lagoon was created when a beautiful native princess removed her clothes to bathe, but looking into a mirror, she saw a male hunter approaching her from behind. Startled at the intrusion, she fled the area leaving behind her mirror which turned into a lake.
where to stay & what to do
Huacachina Eco Hostel - We spent two nights glamping in canvas tents centralized around a large pool. We chose to spend the hot days poolside enjoying the hostel food and drinks. In the evening, once the sun simmered down a bit, we'd head straight up the sand dunes. As always, we turn into five year-old kids in the desert. Our favorite activity is running around, jumping, and smiling ear-to-ear with sand in between our teeth. Although we opted not to hire a dune buggy, this is a popular activity in Huacachina. Sandboarding is also available, but we advise you not to sand board mid-day.
For the love & adventure,
d & b