Paracas & Huacachina – from penguins to dry desert

Ica was undoubtedly the most chaotic and uninviting city in Peru. It is, however, the ideal base for the sleepy fishing village of Paracas and the last oasis in South America: Huacachina. In this blog article I share my best tips for visiting both places. There are day tours that combine Paracas and Huacachina, but we absolutely recommend staying at least one night at both places, to get the most out of your trip! From penguins to dry desert; let me take you to this special piece of nature!

Huacachina: the desert oasis in Peru

“A very long time ago, a beautiful Peruvian princess walked through the desert.
She wanted to take a bath here, but was disturbed by a young hunter.
The princess ran, but left her bath water behind.
Her cloak, dragging behind her as she ran, formed the surrounding sand dunes.
This pool is now known as Huacachina.”

For a long time this was a natural oasis. The reality today is that they artificially maintain the water level in the lake. It is one of the most popular attractions in Peru and without this pool of water, the village would miss out on a lot of income.

What to do in Huacachina?

There is not much to do in Huacachina, but we recommend spending at least one full day there. So convenient to stay here for a night.

Take a buggy tour through the desert

Fancy a shot of adrenaline? Then book a buggy tour! This is undoubtedly the best activity you can do in Huacachina. The buggies scour the desert and it feels like you’re on a rollercoaster. There was a lot of laughter, screaming and boyfriend’s legs were also allowed to believe it. At times like this you just have to squeeze through!

After a bit of cruising around, it was time to grab some sand. We ventured out for a game of sandboarding. First some practice on a smaller dune and then off the big dune. I made an attempt to stand up, but soon noticed that this feels completely different from snowboarding. In the end we went down on our bellies. Fun assured!

Book your buggy tour here.

Climb the highest dune and watch the sunset

Most tours start at 4 pm, where you can enjoy a beautiful sunset at the end of the tour. We decided to go for an early tour and climbed the highest dune in the evening to watch the sunset. Despite the strong wind, we were able to shoot some beautiful pictures here and enjoy this wide landscape, which slowly turned golden when night fell.

Where to eat in Huacachina/Ica?

There are not many great restaurants in Ica and Huacachina. I only have one big recommendation, which is in the center of Ica and that is Harvest coffee house. Here you can enjoy delicious coffee and other drinks, healthy breakfasts such as smoothie bowls and avocado toast, a tasty lunch or cake. We enjoyed breakfast here once and dinner once and this was actually one of our favorite places in Peru.

In Huacachina itself we recommend the Wild Olive On. We shared a pizza here, which was more than big enough for both of us.

Where to stay in Huacachina/Ica?

The nicest place to spend the night is the oasis, but accommodations here are also slightly more expensive than in Ica itself. Banana’s Adventure Hostel is one of the better accommodations in Huacachina. Here you will find private rooms and shared rooms. Fancy a big party? Then the Wild Rover hostel is really something for you.

We stayed in Ica, a 15-minute walk from the oasis. La Estancia Hotel is brand new and offers comfortable nice rooms for a good price. Those who fancy even more luxury are in the right place at Hotel Vinas Queirolo. A beautiful luxurious hotel in a beautiful setting.

Didn’t find what you were looking for? Find a complete overview of accommodations in Ica here.

How do you reach Huacachina?

The oasis of Huacachina is located near Ica. There is no airport in Ica, so the place is only accessible by taxi/car/bus. From Lima it is about a 4 hour drive to Ica. You can also take a night bus from Arequipa, which takes about 12 hours. Are you traveling from Cusco? Then it will take you no less than 20 hours!

There is no public transportation from Ica to Huacachina. For this you use a taxi or a tuktuk. The second option is slightly cheaper.

Paracas: poor man’s Galapagos

No money for the Galapagos Islands? Then Paracas is a great alternative. There is not much to do in the small fishing village, but it is mainly the surrounding area that is worth a visit. We stayed in Paracas for two days, but one full day was basically enough for us.

What to do in Paracas?

Boat trip around the Isla Ballestas

The reason to visit Paracas. Hop on a 2-hour boat trip and go wildlife watching! From waddling penguins to sea lions, pelicans and thousands of birds that dive into the water to hunt for fish. You sail past all kinds of rock islands, where you can observe an ancient sand sculpture at one of the rocks that resemble the Nazca lines. The boat trip does not cost yet 15 euro per person, so you certainly don’t have to leave this activity for the money. Boats depart at 8am and 10am.

Scooter through the Paracas National Reserve

The Paracas National Reserve is special! There where sea and desert come together and you can observe endless plains. Impressive cliffs, red and golden beaches, an incredible biodiversity and a much too touristy village where you can eat something. Many people rent a bicycle, but the gigantic surface makes it impossible to visit the entire park. Another possibility is to book a tour, but we also wanted to avoid this. For 26 euros we rented a scooter and this way we could discover the entire park at our own pace.

Kitesurfing in Paracas

Paracas is one of the best places in the world to try kitesurfing or try it for the first time. Paracas offers steady winds 300 days a year, with October to December being the best months. We do not do kitesurfing ourselves and have therefore not done this in Paracas, but for enthusiasts this is certainly an indispensable activity!

Where to stay in Paracas?

There are many luxury resorts on Paracas, including the beautiful Radisson Resort and even a Hilton Resort! Experience world-class service at Hotel Paracas, a Luxury Collection Resort. Do you travel with a smaller budget like us? Then we can recommend Hostel Killamoon. This accommodation is a fifteen minute walk from the center. The rooms are small, but the place is cheap and fine for a night or two.

See here the full range of accommodations in Paracas.

How do you reach Paracas?

The village of Paracas is located between Lima and Ica. To reach Paracas you use public transport. From Lima it is about a 4 hour drive to Paracas. From Ica to Paracas it is only an hour’s drive. That is why both are often combined.

No time to spend the night in Paracas or Huacachina? You can also book a day tour that combines the Ballestas in Paracas and the Oasis in Huacachina. This tour departs from Lima. In Paracas you can also book tours for Huachina and vice versa.

More inspiration for a trip through Peru

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