Huacachina – Ica, Peru - Atlas Obscura

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Ica, Peru

An unexpected desert oasis in South America. 


According to legend, 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.

Known as the “Oasis of America” it is one of the only true desert oases in the Americas. A lush island in a sea of sand, its watery pool ripples in shades of blue and green, completely encompassed by the brutal environment around it.

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, escaping through the desert from nearby Ica. As of late, the small city, with a population of only 115, has become a hub of backpacking, dune buggy rides, and sandboarding, a sport aptly described by its name.

In recent years, Huacachina has unfortunately begun to resemble the fleeing princess of its legendary origin. The water level of the oasis has dropped consistently, and the community has sustained it through pumping water from external sources. As budget concerns and restrictions on pumping have increased, the future of this South American oasis and legendary mermaid home remains unclear.

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Five hours South of Lima, accessible from downtown Ica

In partnership with KAYAK

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