Huacachina & Ica, Peru Travel Guide
Huacachina is a combination of two words: Huacca (cry in Quechua) and China (woman in Quechua). The town can said to be comprised of two main activities: sandboarding and dune buggying!
Ica is pretty much how you get to Huacachina – arriving by bus and then paying $1.50 USD or so (4-5 soles) for a cab or tuk tuk to take you there (5 minutes), plus has a couple things to do. Where To Eat Where To Stay
Editor’s Note: Places to stay and eat listed below are all for Huacachina, there is little reason to stay in Ica (and next to no one does). There are a few nice hotels and restaurants.
There are a couple ‘touristy’ things to do in Ica – such as wine tours and museums – plus the town of Paracas with the Paracas National Reserve just 1 1/2 hours away by bus – but not much else. Heading out of town from Huacachina strapped into a motorized sand-crushing vehicle i.e. dune buggy to play in the desert with other sand-happy tourists (organized tours) is the biggest event. Travel Guide to Paracas
The lagoon (laguna in Spanish) is small, which makes for a cozy outdoor environment and short stroll from one side to the other. Hotels and hotel restaurants are on both sides, easy to pick and choose where you want to eat or stay. The lower cost hostels are behind the lagoon on Huacachina Boulevard.
For around 30-50 soles ($11-15 USD), depending on your bargaining abilities and the time of year (high season is Easter week in March or April and New Years) you will be taken on a ‘death-defying’ ride up and over (repeat… keep repeating…) an expanse of grey hilly-mounds that never seem to end. Your stomach will flop and heart leap… if you get sick on roller coasters definitely pop a dramamine beforehand… it is very similar with that ‘flying through space’ type of feeling.
A sandboarding trip will cost double or triple that… and there are various places the driver will stop and let you have your fun – either riding a board like you are snowboarding, or face-first lying down (as they made us do and is safer!) on top of the board. They start you out on small hills, then you progress to larger hills as the group feels comfortable and depending on skill level (i.e. how crazy).
Injuries can occur, such as sand-scraping off a large portion of your skin when attempting a high dune that you do not successfully conquer. Have fun but don’t try to impress anyone, stay within what feels comfortable.
Note About Safety in Dune Buggies: Make sure you are strapped in securely, and to keep your hands INSIDE the dune buggy. One gal from Belgium got a trip to the emergency room instead of down a sand dune and was lucky to keep her fingers when the buggy went over a bump and the tire up to the rim where she had placed them…
For those needing a cultural fix other than the ‘party hard’ culture of Huacachina, Ica has two museums that you may enjoy: Museo Regional de Ica and Museo de Piedras Grabadas (Museum of Engraved Stones in English) located at Bolivar #170 at the Plaza de Armas.
A museum about stones? Pretty much… but these andesite (made of dark-grey volcanic rock) stones believed to have been discovered in a cave near Ica are engraved with mind-boggling pictures such as men slaying massive monsters, maybe even dinosaurs (Stegosaurus, Tyrannosaurus Rex and Pterodactyls). Some folks think they are real depictions of ancient civilization, others hogwash (Skeptic’s Dictionary). Regardless, many love the place.
Name: Hosteria Suiza
Address: Balneario de Huacachina #264
Website: www.hosteriasuiza.com.pe/ Quiet location on far end of the lagoon fronting the public beach area with the back pool and garden area back-up against the dunes. Restaurant and bar with lovely views and owners from Argentina.
Name: Banana’s Adventure
Address: Across the lagoon, near Hosteria Suiza.
Website: None. Has a Facebook page. Like a pool, hot wings (spicey chicken), outdoor bar and hammocks set in a shady palm-frond garden? If so, you will love Bananas. Mainly dorm and private rooms with separate baths.
Name: Hostal Rocha
Address: Behind the lagoon
Website: None. Popular for it’s outdoor bar and cheap rooms. Pool in garden area with great views of the dunes, guest kitchen. Used to have beautiful tame parrots who hung-out outside but were told they had been stolen; we send much bad karma to those responsible.
Address: At Hotel Huacachinero
Website: www.elhuacachinero.com/ Off-street garden/pool side restaurant at one of the more expensive hotels in town. Can accomodate large groups.
Name: Sand & Lake Restaurant/Bar
Address: At Sand & Lake Hostel… head to the far end of the lagoon, opposite main town.
Website: None. Have a Facebook page. Casual pub atmosphere lagoon-side with more formal restaurant-type grub: Asparragus and parmesean cheese salad, pasta with mushrooms, steak with pepper sauce, pesto… most seemed to be enjoying their meal fully. Co-owner ‘Aliza the Boarding Babe’ (family is from Huacachina) can give you tips on sandboarding trips!
Name: Mayo Restaurant
Address: Blvd. Huacachina, one block from main area.
Website: None. Set menu of the day and simple fare such as the ever-present cerviche, roasted chicken with french fries. Homemade ‘aji’ (hotsauce in English) has a great kick if you like it spicey.
Photographs by Molly McHugh, all rights reserved.