As a landscape photographer it’s my desire to find and capture beauty in nature. During my travels I’m searching for spectacular landscapes, secluded beaches, grand vistas and often when I have found those places, the photos I take just don’t do them justice. But in some cases it can also be the other way around.
The compositions I photograph only show an excerpt of the reality around me. I can decide what to show and what to leave out of my photos. So it’s always a subjective view I present.
After my travels through the Paracas National Reserve I drove to Ica. I crossed a desert like landscape filled with ruins, walls and lots of waste. It was a bit depressing to see that wide landscape filled with all those structures, which most likely will never be completed, all those walls, which block the views and seem to serve no obvious purpose.
In the following article I will show you none of that. The photos I took in Huacachina are more like a dream, a very selective view of a place, which is the opposite of the calm, untouched desert my photos depict.
Huacachina, a desert town a few km west of Ica, built around a little lake surrounded by enormous dunes. It really is a spectacular setting and from afar it looks beautiful. But once I walked around town and started exploring the dunes reality set in.
There`s so much waste and dirt. The dunes in parts are covered by plastic bottles and bags, some of them partly hidden by sand, others dancing in the wind. In the afternoon and during sunset dune buggies race through the mountains of sand, engines and passengers screeming as they speed up and down the slopes. If you are looking for an adrenaline kick, do sand boarding or party with other backpackers in town, it`s the right place.
I was there though to explore and photograph the dunes, looking for, as I have written above, beauty in nature. The dunes themselfes are beautiful, but what is done to them kind of obscures that beauty. Only during pre-dawn it really reveales itself. The wind during night has washed away most traces of men, the darkness hides the waste and the shapes that emanate from the gloom create truly magical views.
While the town was still asleep I was out there wandering and photographing the dunes, finally able to enjoy the landscape.
In the evening I also went out each day and with time I was able to ignore the noise of the buggies and concentrate fully on my photography, exploring the shapes created by light and sand through my viewfinder. Usually the wind was blowing very fierce then and when I returned to the hotel in the evening in was completely covered in sand.
After two days it was time to continue my journey. In the end I had a great time photographing the dunes of Huacachina despite the negative aspects I listed above. Maybe one day tourism in Huacachina will focus less on action and more on the extraordinary landscape. It would certainly benefit nature.
Things to do in Huacachina
- Sandboarding: Top of the list of what to do in Huacachina for travellers is to hike or take a buggy ride to the top of the sand dunes, sit/stand/ski on a board and fly down the sandy dunes like you are sledging on snow. It is exhilarating and the main reason that people don’t bypass this town. There are many companies which offer sandboarding tours of Huacachina and they vary in price but start around 30 soles and trip lasts around two hours.
- Ride the Dune Buggies: Dune buggies are like big creepy crawlies on wheels. The beasts take to the dunes at speed as revellers squeal. It is a bumpy ride not for the hungover! The dune buggy experience is usually teamed up with sandboarding stops for those looking to shuffle down on their bottoms or attempt to stand. The boards are not the highest of quality. Warning – there are lots of reviews online (TripAdvisor especially) that state that the quality of the dune buggy ride is all down to the skills of the driver so choose your company wisely.
- Tour the vineyards: Peru`s national drink is Pisco (the alcoholic one anyway, Inca Kola is the soft drink) and you can visit the very place where this Peruvian brandy is made. Pisco tours from Huacachina also discuss red wine which is also made in the Ica area which is surprising when you consider that Huacachina is a desert. Most Ica wine and pisco tours include a visit to two-three different wineries and tasting opportunities (around 2-4 hours). If you decide to tour Peru with Peru Hop, the hop on/off backpacker’s bus you will receive a free tour on your way to Nazca.
Where to Eat
In my opinion the food in Huacachina is not really the best in Peru. Due to many cheap backpacking travellers, quality is less important. Below you will find some acceptable places (my opinion).
- El Cordon y la Rosa: At El Cordon y la Rosa you will find typical Peruvian meals like ceviche (raw fish cook in lemon acid with corn and coriander)
- La Casa de Bamboo: At La Casa de Bamboo also vegans will find very delicious food options like different Quinoa Soups. Highly recommended!
- Desert Nights hostel: If you are after some comfort food like burgers and fries check out Desert Nights hostel.
- Wild Olive: In need of pizza? Head to Wild Olive.
Where to Stay
Finding good accommodation in Huacachine isn’t all too difficult. There are a number of options and the styles cater to basically all travellers.
- The Desert Nights Hostel: Desert Nights Hostel is a great place for travellers down to its location at the water, the courtyard, food and comfortable rooms. WiFi is shaky but you will find that’s the situation everywhere in Huacachina.
So, dear reader, what questions do you have about this region or Peru? Have you had a similar experience? Share in the comments!