There aren’t too many desert oases in the world. And among those few, Huacachina Oasis in Peru really stands out.
Huacachina Oasis — known as “Oasis of America” — is about five hours from Lima, Peru’s capital. The oasis is “the only natural oasis in South America” and is home to the biggest sand dunes on the continent, the official Huacachina website explains.
How The Oasis Was Formed
Circled by palm trees, Huacachina Oasis is a “lush island in a sea of sand, its watery pool ripples in shades of blue and green, completely encompassed by the brutal environment around it,” according to Atlas Obscura.
Here’s the geologic explanation for how the oasis was formed in a sea of desert: Huacachina Oasis is the result of a current of water deep underground which bubbles up to allow palm, eucalyptus, and carob trees to grow around it, the Huacachina website explains.
There are also local legends about how the oasis was formed. Although accounts vary, Huacachina.com explains that a young woman — who mourned the loss of her beloved — cried so much that her tears created the lagoon. Then, one day, a warrior passed through the area and saw the woman.
“Feeling observed, the young woman threw herself into the water to hide for hours until the warrior left,” Huacachina.com explains. “When she tried to leave she realized that she had transformed into a mermaid. The girl’s name was Huacachina.”
Huacachina Oasis is famous for its enormous sand dunes. In fact, seeing the dunes has been described as an “out of this world” experience because the area looks like the surface of another planet, according to Huacachina.com.
The area has become famous for its dune buggy and sandboarding tours that take advantage of the sand dunes. On the first half of the tour, visitors ride in a dune buggy driven by a professional driver up and down the dunes at high speeds.
The second half of the tour gives tourists a chance to try sandboarding — which is exactly like snowboarding only on sand dunes instead of snow. Those who don’t want to sandboard can also “sand sled” by going down the dunes on a sled.
A trip to Huacachina wouldn’t be complete without also visiting the 2,000-year-old Nazca Lines — about two hours away. The lines, some of which measure up to 1,200 feet long, are giant designs etched into the ground, National Geographic explains.
When seen from an airplane, visitors realize the lines are actually more than 300 geometric designs, ranging from triangles to spirals. There are also about 70 representations of plants and animals, including a spider, hummingbird, monkey, llama, flower, tree, and dog.
Know Before You Go
The U.S. State Department recently increased its Health Alert: Travel Advisory for Peru to Level 4 Do Not Travel due to “the very high level of COVID-19 in the country.” When it is safe to travel to Peru again, you’ll need to fly into Lima, and then take a five-hour bus ride to Huacachina. As you plan your trip, consider