Imagine…. It’s 6pm and you’re sitting atop a giant wind-sculpted sand dune watching the sun set psychedelically over a landscape of golden yellows and rusty reds. Two hundred meters below you lays a dreamy desert lagoon ringed by exotic palm trees, and furnished with a clutch of rustic yet suitably elegant hotels. It took you 20 exhausting minutes to climb up to this lofty vantage point, but with a well-waxed sand-board wedged beneath your belly you’ll be down in less than one.
While not as famous as Nazca to the south, Huacachina, an aesthetically perfect desert oasis 4km west of Ica, is a firmly established stopover on Southern Peru’s well-trampled Gringo Trail, and with good reason. Sand-boarding, dune buggie rides and good-old romantic idling are the orders of the day here. Not surprisingly, you’ll find backpacker-dom and all its attendant paraphernalia on full display – dreadlocks, tie-die T-shirts, all-night discos, and sinewy dudes with wispy beards clutching well-thumbed copies of Shantaram. Yet, despite the nightlife noise and the surfeit of banana pancake cafes, the spot remains a sublime place to spend a day or three, and a dead cert to enhance your dune climbing skills.