Huacachina, Peru: The Legendary Oasis of South America

The desert oasis of Huacachina in Peru.
The desert oasis of Huacachina in Peru.
Huacachina, located close to the city of Ica, Peru, is South America’s only natural desert oasis.

Five hours south of Lima, nestled among the towering dunes of the Peruvian desert, lies the tiny village of Huacachina. Legend has it that Huacachina was created when an Incan princess was caught staring at her reflection in a mirror as she was walking through the dunes. When she ran away from her voyeur, she dropped the mirror, and it shattered, creating a pool of water. As she dove into the water, it covered the maiden and turned her into a mermaid. The locals claim that every year a mermaid surfaces in the water and takes one man who disappears forever.

In the 1960s, the waters of Huacachina were believed to have healing powers and attracted wealthy Peruvians from miles around. Today, Huacachina is a glistening oasis, sprinkled with restaurants, hotels, and residences amid the lush palm trees and blue-green water.

Huacachina desert oasis in Peru.
Huacachina is a real oasis from the blistering desert heat.

There is plenty to do in Huacachina, Peru for adventurers and relaxation-seekers alike. With dune buggy and sandboarding tours, visitors get a unique view of the coastal dunes, which attract backpackers and sandboarders from all over the world. Aerial tours showcase the Nazca Lines, which are a grouping of mysterious figures and shapes created centuries ago by native Peruvians.

Dune buggy tour in Huacachina, Peru.
The desert oasis of Huacachina serves as the site of dune buggy and sandboarding tours.

A quick trip across the dunes leads visitors to a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands to visit the Humboldt penguins, sea lions, and other native wildlife. After a day of sandboarding and sightseeing, visitors can finish their day touring one of Huacachina’s wineries. The wine tours also feature Peru’s national beverage, Pisco, which is a strong brandy made from grapes.

For travelers who want to step back in time to experience a Peruvian legend firsthand, Huacachina is a real diamond in the rough.