Last time we’ve been to a desert was 14 years ago, in Jaisalmer, India. So the excitement was too much to contain with the idea of going to Huacachina desert in Peru. Welcome to Southern Peru –Huacachina – home to some of the tallest sand dunes in the world. Dubbed “The Everest of the Desert,” Cerro Blanco, located nine miles east of Nazca in the Nazca Valley, is considered one of the world’s tallest sand dunes. At 2,080 meters above sea level, it is said to be the highest in the world.
Huacachina, an oasis village on the outskirts of Ica city, and Cerro Blanco, a massive dune outside the city of Nazca, are the two most popular spots in the area for sandboarders to put their skills to the test. There is a natural oasis found in this desert which also features on the back of the 50 Nuevo Sol notes, the Peruvian currency. It is better if you hire a private cab from your Lima hotel to this place. It is around five hours down south from Lima. Avoid tourist buses by all means for that added comfort and liberty of having your own vehicle.
When we reached this jaw dropping place, it was late afternoon so the sun was not as bright as it is usually around noon. The golden dunes were splashing with a lovely shine of yellowish orange because of the reclining sun. You could see tiny trails of sand surfers climbing up patiently the rather high sandy peaks to make their way down smooth surfing. The oasis itself was a wonder to see, how it was created in the middle of this sandy region is a natural wonder. Peruvian legend tells of a beautiful Princess who took a dip in a pool of water, but was interrupted by a young man who stumbled across her bathing pond. She immediately grabbed her clothing and fled, creating the rolling dunes of sand with the folds of her mantle as she retreated across the desert, dragging her cape behind her. According to the legend, the beautiful young woman still lives in the lagoon today as a mermaid.
There are a few restaurants around this oasis, so a good idea was to devour on (again) some Ceviche, fish fry with rice and Pisco Sour before heading towards the main desert for the intended buggy tour.
On a buggy tour, you’ll be taken on the ride of your life, strapped to a dune buggy racing up and down the dunes at surprisingly high speeds. Tours range from less than $12 U.S. to over $75 and usually include about an hour or two in the dunes. There are options for your buggy depending on availability. If you are a couple, I suggest you go for the two seater buggy which we got. You will have the privacy and flexibility to stop the buggy at breathe-taking locations to take some essential photos. In a larger group buggy, may not always be convenient. Also, remember to bargain hard with the buggy drivers. One thing about Peru we noticed is that these people are genuinely very nice by nature. They also are trying to make a living off the tourists like you and me. So the nature of the bargain doesn’t have to be ruthless with them. Just an advice. So we got the buggy for an hour and off we went. The way we had to wrap ourselves with the seat belts hinted clearly of the bumpy ride ahead. A bit cautious for the camera for that awkward jump or fall, but otherwise we thought to take the plunge, pun intended.
What happened in the next hour flashed in a few seconds. The buggy drove up and down and took dangerous curves spraying the golden dust all around. When it climbed the sandy peaks, you could see miles after miles of desert and mountains far away, next second when you are plunging, the only thing you could see was the ground your buggy was about to hit. Just mindblowing excitement non-stop. It is perfectly accepted to scream and shout at the top of your voice to fully immerse into the excitement Huacachina desert offers.
At one point we stopped to take some photos as you can see here. We took the opportunity to engrave our names (Tanusree, Shehzaad) on the glorious golden sands of the Huachachina desert, like the way we did during the budding days of our romance back in 2000 in the Jaisalmer desert in India. It was an amazing feeling – then in India, now in Peru! 14 years just flew past. Also from the shadows in the images here you can see, the angle of the sun was perfect for us to play with our own shadows. So if you pick the right time to be here, you are bound to have some unforgettable experience. The gist of the story is – there is much more in Peru than Machu Picchu. And Huachachina desert is one such place in the most exciting country in South America – Peru.