The Huacachina oasis (Photo: Carlos Salas/PromPerú)
It is a bit like a dream, standing on the shores of the beautiful Huacachina oasis, contemplating the blue-green water and the immense sand mountains surrounding it all. There is no doubt that it is beautiful, and for that reason it attracts young crowds of both tourists and locals for prolonged weekend stays.
I did not enjoy the 5 hour bus ride with Cruz del Sur from Lima to Ica very much, however. It seems to me that Cruz del Sur doesn’t represent the good deal which it once did. The comfort just is not there, partly due to seat comfort- if the person in front of you leans back his seat, you will virtually get crushed- but in particular because of the never-ending show of videos with high volume thundering from the central speakers. This simply destroys the amazing scenery traveling along the southern Peruvian coast from Lima to Ica. On the way back, I traveled on Soyuz; it wasn’t any better, but at least it was cheaper.
When you arrive to Ica, the change of transportation to a taxi is very smooth, allowing you to arrive to Huacachina within 15 minutes for around S/. 6. Huacachina has an abundance of hostels and guest houses, and they practically all offer the same traditional sand buggy rides and sandboarding. I stayed at Carola del Sur, a sister hostel to Casa de Arena with the same owner, without the lush swimming pool and nightclub of Casa de Arena, but also without the noise.
The Carola del Sur. Photo by author.
Carola del Sur also offers great, spacious and clean rooms at very reasonable prices. The staff is very friendly and easy-going, and is at the same time well organized and secure.
Before going out on the sand dune tours, I went on a classic city tour to Ica, visiting the main square of Ica and a pisco bodega, which gave a nice impression of this colonial town as well as some basic knowledge of the pisco distillation process. And of course, I got to taste some different piscos, with the opportunity to buy special and original Ica pisco, a good way of ensuring quality.
Sandboarding. Photo by author.
In the afternoon, I went on an awesome roller coaster ride in the buggies, bumping up and down in incredible sand dunes for a couple of hours. It is a thrilling and fun experience, which is a must do, as is the sandboarding which is a very cool and unique activity in Peru. However, it takes some practice to get the most of out it, and be careful – even though sand sounds like a soft surface, it is not so soft when you fall of a board in high speed descending a tall sand dune. But these buggies are just amazing, and it is absolute mandatory to go for such a thrilling ride.
A dune buggy. Photo by author.
I spent the entire evening at Casa de Arena, where I joined a barbecue buffet and free drinks for only S/. 50, a heck of a bargain, which you won’t find at many places. The food was great, and there was plenty of it. Later the nightclub opened, and this remodeled meeting place, combining rustic and modern design, is a spectacular spot for everybody (but in particular young people) in and around Ica.
The grounds of the Casa de Arena. Photo by author.
The place is huge, and there is room for many hundreds of people, and in fact it almost fills up on the weekends. The ground floor is an impressive large dance floor with two bars, and a big stage separates this floor from the VIP zone on the second floor.
The nightclub at Casa de Arena. Photo by author.
You can choose to sit down and talk, to go dancing to reggaeton rhythms, or simply hang around enjoying the environment from a distance – each level has the feeling of an exciting meeting place, as the place to be on a Saturday night. The place opens around 11pm, and fills in around 1am, and continues until the early morning, around 5am. This is indeed the place to be on a Saturday evening in Huacachina.
I had a fantastic prolonged weekend stay in Ica and Huacachina, and 3 days is just exactly enough to get something out of the trip, considering the almost 5 hour bus drive back and forth.
* By Morten Bruun Jensen , January 2, 2012