Standing in the midst of a desert, the only sight for miles is sand, and lots of it. There is no water or vegetation for miles. Perhaps the lonely traveler could be spared by a lone cactus with a bit of water storage, but otherwise, they should not expect to quench their thirst until they escape the dry, overwhelming heat of the desert.
That is, in most deserts.
One particular desert in South America is an extremely rare exception. The Ica Desert, which is located in the small town of Huacachina, Peru, is known as the “Oasis of America.” It is a true gem in the heart of an overheated desert.
The small area of civilization consists of a few buildings and plentiful green trees, all supplied by the thriving and refreshing miracle of a lagoon, against the backdrop of ginormous sand dunes. According to the Discovery Channel, “this picture-book village has been built around a small natural desert lake that measures around 200-metres in diameter.”
Huacachina is an interesting place for visitors to admire the beauty and phenomenon in the middle of a desert. According to Atlas Obscura, the town used to be a popular place for tourists to flock to.
“Circled by palm trees, the verdant Peruvian watering hole has served as a tourist attraction for over 70 years. Dotted with restaurants and hotels, the Oasis was formerly a getaway for the upper class… As of late, the small city, with a population of only 115, has become a hub of backpacking and sandboarding, a sport aptly described by its name.”
There are many legends about the origins of this freshwater supply in the middle of the hot sand. The most popular legend concerns a local mermaid in the area.
The legend, shared by Atlas Obscura, states “a hunter caught a beautiful Incan princess walking in the sand dunes near present day Huacachina. As she walked and admired herself in a mirror she was carrying, her eyes caught his voyeuristic gaze. Shocked, the princess began to flee and dropped her mirror. It exploded into shards and the glass became a tiny pool in the desert, consuming the princess and turning her into a mermaid.”
The shards of the princess’ glass provided a water supply for the town of Huacachina, and a new home for the mermaid. Unfortunately, the water supply has been suffering in recent years. “The water level of the oasis has dropped consistently, and the community has sustained it through pumping water from external sources.”
Pumping water is expensive and some restrictions on the practice have increased, which makes it even harder to continue keeping the lagoon and oasis alive.
Before the town of Huacachina experiences any more trouble with the water supply, it is a must-see. Many visitors to the area enjoy the sport of sandboarding, according to the Lonely Planet. “Let go of your fears and sandboard down the steep sandy slopes with a few pointers from your local guide.”
If extreme sports are not your flavor, the Lonely Planet invites you to “admire the breathtaking sunset over the vast desert landscape and take photos in the golden twilight before racing back to Huacachina.” Whether surfing the sand or enjoying the breathtaking views, Huacachina should make its way on the list of top vacation destinations.
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