In the midst of one of the driest climates in the world is an oasis town with lush palm trees, flourishing foliage, and a tranquil lagoon which is said to have curative properties.
This magical town is called Huacachina, and it can be found not only on adventurers' bucket lists, but also in a barren desert in Peru.
It has the looks and feel of a remote Saharan outpost, but in reality is only an hour’s drive away from the Pacific coast, and just a short distance away from the city of Ica, in southern Peru.
This picturesque desert oasis Huacachina has long been a tourist destination for wealthy local families from the nearby city of Ica, and lately a major destination for visitors from far and wide climb who want to climb to the top of a wind-sculptured sand dune and watch the sunset illuminate the golden landscape, or sail down the slopes on rented sandboards or dune buggies.
Tourists can visit the surreal settlement and the 100 residents who thrive on running small businesses such as rustic hotels and quaint restaurants on their greatest resource; sand.
The lake is naturally formed, but there is a legend that a young princess was bathing when she was discovered by a hunter and fled, leaving behind a pool of water. Her flowing cloak was said to have created the surrounding sand dunes.
The oasis flourished in the 1940s and 1950s as a getaway for the Peruvian elite, as it was thought the waters had healing powers, and regained a certain prominence through tourism promotion campaigns in the 1990s. Today it is a backpacker’s paradise and a top destination for sandboarding and dunebuggy rides, but this tourism is taking its toll on the lagoon.
Groundwater consumption has caused the water level of Huacachina’s lagoon to sink sharply, and for the past several years, the lagoon is fed by water from other sources to prevent it from drying up.
Dubbed the "Oasis of America" the area has been declared a national cultural heritage site, by the National Institute of Culture, and it is hoped that this tranquil oasis won’t become just another mirage in the desert, as it is one of the few remaining natural oases in North and South America.
For more information about Huacachina please see their tourist page here.