Posted by Caleb | January 4, 2016
NASA actually uses the Atacama desert of Peru as the testing ground for any Mars related project as the weather, landscape and general life inhabiting the place is the closest we have on earth. We found it similarly odd, a planet where no one has jobs and people just jack around in the sand all day.
The highlight of the week there in early December was no doubt the time spent in Huacachina, a literal desert oasis, tiny pond surrounded by mountains of sand. The main attraction for making the trip is the sand boarding/dune buggy tours. For about 35 PER Soles (11 USD) each, we walked out of our hostel to an awaiting dune buggy, manned by a wise old Peruvian who directed both English and Spanish speakers with general grunts. This guy was a highlight for me as his instructions for sand boarding involved pointing gestures and then pushing hesitant travelers down the sand dunes.
A few tips if you make it to Huacachina:
- The early 3:00 tour from Bananas Hostel filled up early in the day but the sunset tour was the same price and inevitably less hot. We also had a chance to see the sunset from atop the dunes.
- Wear pants, specifically for going down on your belly this will help.
- We paid about 35 soles each for a bigger buggy with eight folks on board – you can get smaller buggies of four people for 60 soles a person, roughly 20 bucks.
- Skip the wine tours you are offered in conjunction. Lots of riding in a van, bad wine and tons of bugs.
A day prior we had hit the tiny Pacific beach town of Paracas. Our plan was to use the day as a rest day as Beth had secured a free five-star beach resort filled with a crazy giant pool and beach views. We ended up instead renting four wheelers and cruising the desert. We bucked up and dished out 250 soles (about $74) for the two hour riding session, park entrance and transportation in and out of town. It was a personal tour if you’d like to call it that. Only two of us with an English speaking guide that was the ‘silent type’. There are several options to see the natural reserve for much cheaper but we found this to be well worth the money. We were able to see most of the park and not have to deal with pedaling or sardine packed tourist vans.