With a day to spare in Lima after a photo assignment near Cusco, my colleague and I were left wondering how we could make the most of our day. After a bit of searching on Google, we came across a desert oasis called Huacachina. After seeing photos of this beautiful destination (a little town and lake surrounded by giant sand dunes), we began to research how we could get to it. We were disappointed to see that it was around five hours away. We were about to write off the idea until we came across a company called Peru Hop. For really reasonable rates, they travel all around Peru in large and luxurious buses and work along side hotels, hostels and activities in each destination. They let you have a lot of control on your itinerary and have guides on the buses.
We opted for a single day your, which would take us to Huacachina and back with a stop in Paracas for a tour of Ballestas Islands. If you do not want to travel so much in a single day you can hop off the bus and stay a night in Huacachina or Paracas. Our day began early, with the bus picking us up from our hotel in Miraflores at 5:30am. Upon entry to the bus I was pleasantly surprised with the luxuries of the bus. The seats were large and the bus was clean and spacious. Our journey took 4 hours to arrive to Ballestas Islands. I easily slept the whole time.
We arrived at Paracas and we hoped off the bus. We boarded a jet boat (included in our tour), which took us to Ballestas Islands. Ballestas Islands is a series of small islands off the coast of Peru that are offen referred to as “the poor mans Galapagos” since it has incredible biodiversity but is MUCH cheaper to visit. Don’t let the name put you off! The speed boat tour takes two hours round trip. Each boat holds around 30 people and goes at quite a speed. It takes about 40 minutes to reach the Ballestas Islands. Upon arrival you see thousands and thousands of birds covering almost the entire island. Beyond the birds, you also can see Sea Lions, Penguins and many other types of wildlife. Try and get the seat on the boat closest to the side as it is easier to view the incredible sights from their. After circling around the island for about thirty minutes, we made the 40 minute journey back to Paracas. We then strolled around the beachfront town of Paracas for 30 minutes or so.
Around 1pm we departed Paracas and headed to Huacachina. It took about another hour and halve to arrive. This destination was the reason we came on the tour so we were excited to arrive. Huacachina is a truly incredible place and the only desert oasis in the whole of South America! It is very small and contains a couple blocks of stores and hostels next to a lake and is surrounded by massive sand dunes. The town only has 100 permanent residents. We were told it use to be restricted to only really wealthy people and was where the ex- president of Peru lived! We used are free time before the sand buggy and sand boarding tour to grab some food at Bananas Hostel. Food was cheap and the atmosphere was great. At 4pm we were assigned which sand buggy we would go in. We were put in the sand buggy with the driver that was known as the “crazy driver”. I can confirm his name stands for good reason because we spent 2 hours flying around the sand dunes faster than I have ever experienced in any tour. Along the way we made stops to sand board down the massive dunes. You can complete it the “safer” way lying down on your belly or if you want to be more daring, you can try standing up. I tried standing up and got to experience what the sand tasted like.
After 2 hours of absolute thrill, our driver brought us to a remote sand dune where we all watched the sunset into the dunes. It was beautiful. We returned back to Haucachina, ran up the dunes on last time to catch a night picture of the oasis then boarded onto the Peru Hop bus. It was a 6 hour drive back to Lima but I spent it sleeping and watching The Hangover on the TV on the bus so it was really enjoyable.
I would really recommend this tour for someone that is looking for a way to spend 1 to 2 days. If you have two or three days to spare I would definitely stay in Huacachina . It was a place like no other and I wish I had more time to explore it. That being said if you only have one day and you don’t mind bus travel, this is the way you should spend your time!