How to get there:
We used the Cruz del Sur bus company to go from Lima to Ica and bought our tickets at the bus terminal for $20. We even upgraded to the VIP seats for $3 a person. The seats were nice, they reclined and each seat had its own tv screen. Unfortunately, all entertainment options were in Spanish, but it was nice nonetheless. This bus was about 5 hours long…..yes its a long time to be on a bus but they did serve food and Inca Cola. (By the way, would not recommend. Inca Cola is disgusting and is basically yellow, bubble gum flavored medicine. I cannot understand the Peruvian obsession with it. Stick with Coca Tea.) We had been in Peru for over a week at this point so we were happy to rest and nap for the day.
FYI this is your view for 5 entire hours. Enjoy.
BANANAS ADVENTURE HOSTEL
When we arrived in Ica we took a short, 15 minute Taxi to Huacachina, specifically Banana’s Adventure Hostel. If we could recommend any hostel in the entire world, we would recommend Bananas! It was $25 a night for the 6 bed mixed dorm, which is clearly an expensive hostel for Peru, but BOY WAS IT WORTH IT. Remember, this hostel IS the activity in Huacachina, there isn’t much there.
It had its own pool and bar and restaurant AND you received free breakfast and one free activity with each night of your stay. Let’s start with breakfast. This is no soggy continental breakfast. You get to order your freshly made breakfast each morning. Perhaps a heaping bowl of fresh fruit with yogurt is your thing. Maybe you prefer a fresh bread basket with eggs cooked to order. All breakfast came with coffee, tea, and fresh juice. O
nce you get your breakfast, you can enjoy it poolside in the peace and quiet of the desert. This is probably the best hostel breakfast you will find. Katelyn was pleased, and honestly that should tell you everything you need to know.
Now, my favorite part, the activities! We stayed for 2 nights and chose sandboarding for our first activity and pisco tasting for the second.
Hello sandboarding you wonderful, wonderful thing! To be honest this was why I had dragged Katelyn into the Peruvian desert in the first place. That and a desire to see a real life desert. Both lived up to my wildest dreams. So you start out the tour with dune buggying out into the desert. This is not a smooth ride, they are sliding and jumping dunes and everyone is screaming. It’s amazing. Eventually, you get far enough out that all you can see is mountains of sand. You really don’t realize how high up you are until you walk to the edge of this mountain and they tell you to slide down it. I won’t lie, there was a voice telling me that I had absolutely no business sliding face first down a sand dune at 50mph. That voice was silenced by my more adventurous side and off I went. It was exhilarating. You are going very fast and there is no way to stop. It was one of the most exciting things I’ve ever done. For those people that truly have a death wish you can also sandboard standing up. It’s like snowboarding, but if you fall you hit sand…aka rocks…instead of fluffy snow. I stuck with the whole lay down on your stomach and hope for the best approach. Katelyn could not be convinced to do it because she “hates sand” (scaredy cat) but she did enjoy the dune buggies. After going down 4 runs you get back on the dune buggies and head back to Huacachina. We did the sandboarding excursion late in the evening which means we got to watch the sunset over the sand in a gorgeous display, then we had the added adrenaline rush of dune buggying in the dark!
The next morning we embarked on our Pisco tasting tour, however, it is very much mislabeled. This is a pisco drinking tour. If I could give you one piece of advice for pisco tasting it would be to bring water with you…and lots of it. Pisco is the national liquor of Peru; it is technically a brandy made with a specific grape. It is used to make the national drink of Peru, the Pisco Sour. Katelyn was a fan of the pisco sour. Me? Not so much. It has egg white in it and frankly that freaked me out. I preferred straight pisco. We started at a pisco bodega where our guide showed us the process of creating pisco. He also went on a fun rant about how America is ruining pisco…always nice to be appreciated. Apparently the FDA is very upset about the 80 proof spirit and apparently, they don’t appreciate the quality control in Peru. This is why any pisco you get in the USA is not as good as Peruvian pisco; it has been watered down. Anyway, he was right about one thing, the pisco we drank was NOT watered down. He explained each type of pisco and we tried a shot of each kind. Then we were invited to go up and try whatever pisco we wanted.
So after these 6 or 7 shots of pisco, we were invited to walk down to the next bodega. There was no semblance of appreciating the pisco here, our shot glasses were filled and refilled with no explanation. Then we drove to the next bodega. We were led into the basement where there were jugs of fermenting pisco. This man led us in carrying a long bamboo looking stick. He then starts opening these clay pots and using this highly sophisticated ladle (the stick) to pour pisco into our cups. Yes, we had upgraded to cups. At some point, he pulled out a funnel and this girl from Chicago impressed us all with her chugging abilities. Ya’ll. It escalated so quickly. I’m still very confused by what happened here, I mean after the first very respectable English speaking bodega owner, no one else really offered to sell us any pisco. I’m not complaining or anything but wow, what a generous people the Peruvian pisco makers are. It looked like they were selling pisco in milk jugs at the last bodega. I’m not really sure though. After several hours of drinking 80 proof pisco, (except Katelyn who had started handing me her own shots after our first stop) we rode back to Bananas.
Needless to say, we were all best friends by the time we returned to the hostel and needed food ASAP. We all ate dinner at the hostel restaurant where Katelyn had the best risotto ever, meaning she had it there 2 nights in a row. The atmosphere was friendly and everyone ate together. The food was expensive by Peruvian standards, but because it was our last 2 days in Peru, we splurged. We heard that there was another hostel nearby that had cheaper food, so keep that in mind. There were also some local restaurants that I’m sure you could have eaten at for $3 or $4 per meal.
We wandered around Huacachina the next morning, but there isn’t much to see other than the locals fishing in the pond and kids sandboarding down nearby dunes. It’s probably the size of 3 city blocks, so you can walk laps around it if you would like. We loved our stay here. It was the perfect last 3 days in Peru. We got a taxi back to the bus station in Ica and went back to Lima that afternoon.
This would be a great place to explore the surrounding Ica area from if you had the time. We would have definitely stayed longer if we could. We almost didn’t do Huacachina because it was so out of the way, so if you’re thinking the same then don’t. It is a relaxing place with lots of adventure to be had! Basically, do it.
|Bus (and Return)||$46|
|2 Nights at Bananas||$50|
|2 Days Lunch and Dinner||~$60|
|Total||$156 ($52 a day)|
*If we had been willing to put in the effort we definitely could have saved a lot of money on our food but at this point in our trip, we didn’t even care anymore. I’d say if you ate like we did in the rest of Peru you would be able to eat for ~$25
**You also save $6 by not upgrading to VIP seats on the bus
***-food, -upgrade =$40 a day