For years I had been looking forward to and planning my trip to Central and South America; Peru, especially, was a hot spot for me. I’d heard so much about the diverse landscapes and rich cultures the country has to offer—in fact, I was almost afraid it wouldn’t live up to what I had imagined it to be. After traveling through Ecuador, my travel group and I arrived in Mancora, in northern Peru. We then traveled south to Lima where we caught the 4-hour bus headed to do some sandboarding in Huacachina, a desert oasis.
My first impression of Huacachina was magical. We jumped in a cab from Ica to take the ten-minute trip over to Huacachina. After driving through the town and down a few windy roads, we reached a hill. After a few moments chugging up in our little yellow taxi we were met with the most breath-taking view: little Huacachina nested amongst its desert oasis.
We stayed in a handsome little hostel: Banana Adventures Hostel. Here, included in our two-night stay was the opportunity to partake in two activities. We chose sandboarding in Huacachina, of course, and wine tasting in Ica. Thankfully, the wine tasting came after the sandboarding!
We spent our first day wandering around the town of Huacachina. We took in the sights, ate ice cream and enjoyed people watching and gazing out upon the oasis. Five o’clock rolled around and we were whisked off to the buggy base, just in time to sandboard as the sun set on the dunes. Our group was big, so we needed two sand buggies to take us up to the sand boarding spot. I picked a buggy and jumped in. What happened next was beyond my expectations.
We raced up and down the dunes at full speed, crashing down and flipping around. I would be lying if I said I didn’t close my eyes and scream the whole way. [See video below for a polished version of what we experienced.] With only the sandboarding having been mentioned, this surprise warm-up turned out to be a ride of a lifetime. Thankfully our driver was a skilled expert (or just very lucky), and we arrived at our first sandboard point safely.
The other driver took a few too many attempts to gain enough momentum to reach the top. In the end, he had no choice but to give up and those in his carriage had to hike up the dune in true warrior style.
There were four slopes in total, ranging in size with the first being the smallest. I was first off the buggy so should have been the first to go down the dune. But, I silently slipped to the back of the queue in an attempt not to be seen. Trying desperately to pluck up some courage, take the leap and board down the dune, I was experiencing an internal battle as I am terrified of heights!
Finally, as the last frightened soul, it was my turn to attempt sandboarding in Huacachina. With some calming encouragement from the guide, I laid down on my board, closed my eyes and hoped for the best. It was much faster than I thought it would be. Digging my feet into the sand on the way down acted like a break, so luckily I had an option to slow down if I wanted to.
I will never forget the moment we reached the second sandboard point and the sun was gently setting behind the dunes. The atmosphere changed so quickly as the sky lit up with orange and pink hues. The mental image of standing amongst those dunes at sunset will stay with me for years to come. I couldn’t believe the beauty of this little oasis nestled between gigantic sand dunes.
Once the sun had set it was time to get back into the death wagon. This time I was prepared. We raced through the dunes in record time and thankfully arrived back at the buggy point, all in one piece. We finished our evening with a family-style barbecue organised by our hostel, followed by some excellent pisco sours.
The next morning it was up and out to catch our wine tour that started at 10am. (A questionable time to start such a tour, perhaps.) It began with a tour of the Vineyard Bodego Nietto. They explained the different types of grapes used for wine and those used for pisco. We were provided a brief overview of the history and showed us how the grapes were grown, processed and fermented. Finally, the tasting began.
We were taken on a boozy cultural journey through the history of Peru’s national drinks, starting with wine. My favorite: Borgoña, a full, dark red wine with a fruity taste. Most of the wines made in this region were fruity, sweet and definitely too easy to drink. We tried a taster of six or seven wines ranging from red to rose and finished off with a very sweet dessert wine (delicious). I could have stayed there all day tasting all the different wines under the blazing sun, but we had to move on. To pisco, that is.
Although not too crazy about pisco served neat, the pisco cream made on site was to die for. Think baileys on ice but creamier, sweeter and smoother. The pisco creams came in plenty of exotic flavors. They had exotic fruit flavors like passion fruit, mango and papaya. Fuller flavors for those with a sweet tooth like coffee, coconut cream and hazelnut. My favorite was the white chocolate.
The pisco creams are native to Ica and, in fact, it’s the only place you can buy them (I’ve checked). Bodego Nietto offers a litre of the good stuff for as little as £4! If we hadn’t had more of our journey ahead of us we would have bought ten of each flavor! The Nietto wine tour was a great way to explore the authenticity and meet the people of Ica. I enjoyed learning about the historic culture of Peruvian wine and pisco, and will be back to buy some one day.
We wobbled out of the vineyard and made our way back to Banana hostel for a well deserved ceviche. Our last night consisted of watching the sun go down among musicians, new friends and more wine. Huacachina stood out as a highlight from my time traveling Peru. I urge anyone traveling through Peru to add it to their itinerary, you won’t be disappointed. From wine tasting to sandboarding in Huacachina, this desert oasis is a breathtaking experience.