In the middle of the unforgiving and dry desert of Peru, surrounded by rolling, rippled desert dunes there is one retreat that is far from a mirage. Huacachina is a dreamlike oasis in South America, a perfect fusion of sand, water, beauty, and marvel. This unique Peru travel getaway lies just south from the city of Ica and is about a 5-hour drive from Lima. There’s so much more to explore when you’re done with Machu Pichhu!

Far from a Mirage

Quiet, soothing waters and verdant flora and palm trees here stand in contrast with the stark surroundings. The tropical location is nestled in the middle of one of the most desolate places on earth and is now becoming a feature on many an adventurer’s bucket lists. Huacachina has a very small native Incan population. Totaling under 100 year-round residents. These residents thrive off of their small tourist business by using their most copious resource – sand.

Huacachina

Photo: Christopher Crouzet via Flickr

Trendy Sabbatical

While it does not have a large native population (which is understandable considering the lagoon is only 200 meters wide) it is a trendy sabbatical for locals, world adventurers, and backpackers. While in Huacachina guests can go shopping, visit the Oasis library, and adrenaline junkies can even sand board the dunes during Huacachina’s virtually psychedelic sunsets.  The small desert location became so popular it was illustrated and added to the back of Peruvian currency.

Photo: Robert Luna via Flickr

The Native Princess and her Bath

In Huacachina’s zenith, the desert dream was a sought after by the “privileged population” in the 1940s and again in the 1990s. Thousands flocked to Huacachina’s lagoon because of the possible healing curative properties that the supernatural water contained.

Legend holds that the lagoon became mystic when a Native princess was captured during her bath by a young pirate. The princess fled. The water the princess was bathing in didn’t evaporate, and instead became the lagoon. In fact some believe that the princess never actually left, and instead, turned into a mermaid and still lives in Huacachina to this day. This legend is recognized by enough that a statue of the princess was built on the banks of the lagoon.

Huacachina Peru

Photo: Robert Luna via Flickr

Fighting to Protect Huacachina

Unfortunately, Huacachina the lagoon water is fleeing just as the princess of legend. As landowners dig wells to access groundwater, coupled with evaporation during summer, the mystic lagoon’s water levels haven’t been able to refill and have plunged over the past few years.  Determined to combat this, water has been pumped into the lagoon from Ica for Huacachina inhabitants and the lagoon’s own water source is consistently accompanied from other sources.  Huacachina has been acknowledged as a national cultural heritage site by the Peruvian National Institute of Culture.

sandboarding-ica peru

Photo via Pixabay

This desert oasis is a lovely Peru travel option beyond the Machu Picchu trail.

Also Read:

Hiking in Peru: The Rugged Road to Pachamama

World’s Most Extreme Places For Your Next Adventure Trip