Huacachina is literally an oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert, and it’s a location I’ve wanted to go to ever since moving to Peru! On a whim, my husband and I decided to plan a trip to Ica & Huacachina, and I was so glad we got to escape Lima for a few days.
Ica is located in Southern Peru, about 264 kilometres (or 164 miles) from the capital of Lima. It’s basically a straight shot south on the Pan-American highway, with stops in various cities along the way. Google Maps says the trip should take 3 hours + 38 minutes, but let’s face it… in Peru, everything takes longer, including a road trip! It took us about 5 hours to get to Ica, and about 4 1/2 hours back to Lima.
To get to Ica, your mode of transportation is a bus. This is the transportation Peruvians are accustomed to, and I don’t think many Gringos take advantage of the buses throughout their travels in Peru.
We took Peru Bus from Lima to Ica, for 20 soles (each) there and 22 soles (each) back. There are two choices for buses: VIP or regular. The VIP buses go straight from the bus stop downtown Lima to Ica, with no stops along the way. On the other hand, the regular Peru buses have lots of stops along the way before leaving Lima, and stops in Cañete, Chincha, Pisco, and Ica. With these buses, you can get on and off whenever you want to, at their designated stops. We chose the regular bus, so we saved a trip downtown and simply walked to a designated stop a few blocks away.
When we got to Ica, we hopped out of the bus, and began our walk to the plaza. We had read some reviews on Trip Advisor about hotels, and decided to stay at Hotel Colon beside the plaza. (See my review on TA) We got a room for S./60 a night, and breakfast was not included, nor was Wifi, as our phones never connected. (but we didn’t care)
For lunch in Ica, I recommend finding a Chifa restaurant (Chinese), or a Menu. Menu restaurants include an appetizer + main dish + drink for anywhere from 8 to 20 soles. We chose to eat at Doña Vilma’s right in front of the plaza. Their lunch cost S./8, and had quite a few options to choose from! I love eating at Menus… best bang for your bucks! It’s a little hole in the wall, but the service is good, and the food was ready fast.
After filling up on food, we walked to the bus stop to catch a mototaxi for a ride to Huacachina. We were told that it should cost around 5 soles, so that’s what we bartered for. One driver said 8 soles! When you’re a Gringa, you get the Gringa-price! 😉
As soon as we got out of the mototaxi at Huacachina, men came up to us offering us excursions in their dune buggies… we just kept walking and went off to explore the small Huacachina Lagoon. I was a little disappointed with the lagoon… the water was dirty, trash was everywhere, and the water level was really low. But that didn’t stop the tourists and locals from enjoying the area. We hiked up the sand dunes to get a better view and take too many pictures. We stayed over 2 hours in the sun and sand, waiting for the sunset…. it was worth it!
Dinner was at El Paradero… another restaurant at the plaza. We split a half chicken, salad, and plate of fries for 28 soles. The food was great, service was great, and the price was great for what we got! You can never go wrong with a chicken dinner in Peru!
The next morning we went to the fruit/juice shop right next to our hotel. Breakfast was small- a yogurt/fruit salad, and small bread roll with fried egg for S./7. After we ate, we walked around town a bit, looking for things to do. Honestly, there is nothing in Ica to do when you’re on a budget! Sure, there are trips to museums and wineries and restaurants, but all those cost at least 35 soles a person, and our budget didn’t allow for that.
What our budget did allow for, was checking out a new hotel! A block behind the plaza was the Palacio del Sol Hotel, which we had not seen or heard of online anywhere, so we were surprised to find it. It is relatively new, very clean, fancy, and the staff is friendly. Because it is off-season for tourists, we got a discounted hotel room: 60 soles instead of the usual 70 soles! The room was much quieter than Hotel Colon, and the bathroom was huge!
We had Menu for lunch again, then headed back to Huacachina to enjoy the sunshine all afternoon. Hiking up the sand dunes is such a workout, but so worth it for the views!
For dinner we tried out a Chifa restaurant a block from the plaza, that was a little pricey (12 soles a person), but delicious! Afterwards, we walked around the plaza a few times, then back to the hotel to sleep. Hiking the dunes wore us out!
The next morning, we were on a bus heading home by 6:20am! It was a quick trip to Ica, and we didn’t do anything touristy while we were there, but I would love to go back someday. Lots of tourists stop by Ica on their way to or from Nazca, as it’s closeby. I wouldn’t say that Ica is a huge tourist destination, but Huacachina definitely is, and despite the expensive prices of everything, and dirtiness, it deserves to be seen! There’s nothing quite like climbing sand dunes and seeing the surreal landscapes of the Peruvian desert!
Have you ever been to a desert oasis?