[Day 3] Day trip to Huacachina

One of the reason why I picked Hola Peru as my accomodation was the fact that they offered a day trip to Huacachina from their hostel. This would include pick up and drop off. And of course, since it was a private tour, I was able to negotiate my schedule a bit. I looked at several options for tours to Huacachina. Many of the tours would include Ballestas Island as it was on the way to Huacachina. But I wanted more. I knew I couldn’t get Nazca Lines included but I wondered about a winery tour.

While looking at different books and websites, I found that the city of Ica, where Huacachina is located, is famous for its winery. It wasn’t just the wine but also pisco, Peru’s national drink. I looked at several options to see if I could include a winery tour but all the ones I found that included the winery were overnight tours. My time at Lima was limited so I did not want to do an overnight tour in Huacachina. So I asked my hostel about their tour packages and the owner suggested that I do a private tour with their driver.

I could have done the tour myself but what fun would that be? So I posted on a travel forum that I was looking for someone to do a day tour with me and I found 2 girls to do the tour with. The owner said the price would drop with more people. So with the private tour, including the winery tour (excluding the entrance fee), it was $170 per person. The tour included private car (SUV), a driver, Bellestas Island boat tour, and Huacachina buggy tour + sand boarding. What we ended up adding was a stop at the Winery. And it was perfect.

The owner said that the morning pick up can be done for other hotels/hostels if they were in Miraflores so I left my hostel at 6am and went to pick up the others. Once we picked up everyone, we headed to Paracas. The day we were on the tour, they had a storm and high sea level warning, so the owner told me that the boat tour might get cancelled. I prayed that the weather would change while we were driving out. I mean, it was a 4 hour drive. Things could change, right?

And it did! The weather cleared up and we were good to go! Our driver handed us off to the tour guide at the docks and we were on our way to see Ballestas Island. I thought it was close by but it was quite far. If you get motion sickness, I suggest you take pills before going on this trip.

On the way to Ballestas Island, we saw something similar to Nazca Lines. An image of a candelabra. It was extremely vision and even the tour guide said that they have no idea who made it or why it was made. History is so interesting.

Once we got to Ballestas Island, we saw a lot of activities. Pelicans and seagulls were everywhere and somewhere between them, there were penguins! They were so cute but there were only a few and they were very hard to see. Also, there were some sea lions lounging about and enjoying the sun. According to the tour guide, Ballestas Island has a nickname “poor man’s Galapagos” and I can sort of see it. There are a lot of wildlife here and I think you would be able to see more if you came at the right season.

Our boat driver and tour guide were fluent in English and the explanations were great. The boat bounces a bit but it’s not too rough. The sun… It hurts so make sure you rub on a ton of sunblock and a hat is a must.

Next stop, the Winery. I did not get to pick the winery but we ended up at the one I wanted to go to: Hacienda Bodega Tacama. The Winery is beautiful. I recommend it to anyone planning on doing a private tour.

And we arrived at the perfect time to do the English tour. The price of the tour was 15 soles and it took about 1 hour. The tour includes a wine tasting at the end. They have several tours that goes into the detail but since we didn’t have time, we did the most basic one.

While on the tour, they cover how wine is made and also how pisco is made. They have a small museum that has their old machines and gadgets on display. You can see the older barrels they used to use, as well as pots that stored pisco.

And at the end of the tour, your wines and pisco awaits you. I got to try 1 white, 1 red, 1 rose, and 1 pisco. The white and red were both really dry. The rose wine isn’t very sweet. And pisco…. The pisco was 43%! It was the strongest wine I’ve ever had! Too strong for me. If you like dry wine, I think you would like Peruvian wine.

I tried to fly my drone here because it was so spacious and beautiful. However, when I asked the general manager, he said that we needed to get permission beforehand. So no drone here… 😦 If I knew, I would have asked before coming! So drone owners! If you ask, you can fly here!

We also got to enjoy lunch here. The price is a bit high but the good was really great. The plates are rather large and can be shared. A lot of their food were shareable types so prepare to do a family style meal.

Finally, our last stop. Huacachina. I have been seeing this place on my instafeed since I started searching Peru on my phone. The small oasis in the middle of the desert. I’ve never seen an oasis before so I was really excited for it. Plus, sand boarding was something I’ve never done so this was all new. And I like new things 🙂

The sand dunes were filled with tourist and the buggies. The buggy was a 6 seater but since we were a private group, it ended up being just us and the driver. He took us to the top part of the dunes and took pictures of us. The desert was amazing to see. No one in sight, just all sand… It was so peaceful and even the wind felt nice. With no footsteps or tire tracks, the desert looked untouched and I was mesmerized by it. It felt as if it was somewhat out of this world…

Once we were done awing at the desert, the driver asked if we wanted to sand board. We all said yes. He took out the boards from the back of the buggy and applied wax to the bottom of 3 boards. With our tour, the sand boarding was only the laying down one. If you really want to board similar to snow boarding, you have to ask beforehand.

We started at a smaller hill and it was a blast! But too short. And after we were at the bottom, we had to walk back up and it was too much. Every step we took, we were sinking into the sand. It was pretty hard. So we asked if we have to keep walking up. Our driver said that if we go to a higher hill, he can drive us up. So we opted for that. The higher hill was a bit more scary and there were more people. I’ve heard of accidents were boarders collided with each other. But I think all the drivers were aware of that and made sure people had enough space between them and also time between when sliding down. We were able to board about 4 times and after that, my tour mates were done. So we decided to call it a night.

We asked our driver if we needed to head back right away or if we had time for dinner. He said we could grab something. So we headed back to town and ended up at the Desert Nights. This place has a rooftop and offers a great view of the sand dunes. Also, they have happy hour and has good food choices. We ended up getting ceviche and drinks.

If I had more time, I would have liked to stay at Huacachina overnight. It is really small but just being able to relax on the rooftop with a drink or even sitting at the sand dunes with a drink and watching the sunset sounds like sometime I would do. If you have time, making this a 2 day trip and including Nazca Lines wouldn’t be so bad.

With all the driving, it was a long day and I was glad we did a private tour. The car ride was good and I think we all passed out. And with all the flexibility we had, I think doing a private tour is definitely worth it.