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Blog - Huacachina Photography Guide

In this Huacachina Photography Guide, I show you the photos you can take around the Huacachina desert oasis near Ica in Peru.
I talk about the following topics:

Huacachina Photography Guide

Travel Photography Can Be Deceptive

As a landscape and travel photographer, I desire to find and capture beauty in the places I visit. During my travels, I search for spectacular landscapes, secluded beaches, and grand vistas, and often, when I've found those places, the photos I take don’t do them justice. Looking at an image is not comparable to standing in the depicted places yourself.

But there are also occasions when the photos look better than reality. The compositions I photograph show an excerpt of the reality around me. I can decide what to show and leave out of my photos. I always present a subjective view.

The first few days of my travels through Peru in 2016, I went from Lima to Ica by bus. Rushing past was a desert-like landscape filled with ruins, walls, and waste. Seeing the landscape filled with all these structures and walls felt depressing.

It was certainly not what you see in travel brochures or the typical YouTube videos. It's also not what you'll see in this article. The photos I took in Huacachina are like a dream of how I imagined this place to be. But in this article, I want to at least share my impressions of reality in written form.

Person walking along the massive dunes of Huacachina

How To Travel to Huacachina

If you travel to Peru by plane like I did, you arrive in Lima, Peru's capital* and largest city. I stayed in Miraflores, not too far from the coast. It's a beautiful area in this vast city and a good place to spend a night, get organized, and book a bus ticket for the continuation of your journey.

Back in 2016, Cruz del Sur had the best ratings among the bus companies in Peru, which is why I used them. But get some up-to-date information, because although they had the best ratings, not everything went well during my travels. In a few hours, they can take you from the heart of Lima to Ica, a large city close to Huacachina. Prices for such a ride in the very comfortable buses are around 20 USD.

But before I reached Huacachina, I made a short stop in Paracas. It is a nice coastal town with many little restaurants, hotels, and a small harbor. If you want to photograph Peruvian Pelicans, it's a great place to visit. From there, you can also embark on a tour of the Islas Ballestas to see penguins, boobies, and sea lions. If you are interested in that, I can recommend a stop. But mind that this area is very touristy and most tours are crowded.

A Peruvian Pelican in the harbor of Paracas

Where To Stay for Photography

When you arrive in Ica, you should take a taxi to Huacachina and find a hotel there. It's a short ride that shouldn't cost more than five dollars. Ideally, you book a hotel in advance. Huacachina is a popular place with many people visiting. To get the most out of a visit to this desert oasis, I recommend at least two nights to explore and photograph the dunes.

I stayed in Hosteria Suiza* at the end of town. It's calmer than most other places, and you can directly head into the dunes from there.

Huacachina glows in the night, surrounded by dunes

How To Take the Best Photos in Huacachina

After I checked into the hotel, I climbed one of the highest dunes directly behind the hosteria. The dunes around Huacachina are breathtaking and offer expansive views of the desert.

But during my climb, reality set in: There was so much waste and dirt. In some areas, the dunes were covered in plastic bottles and bags, some partly hidden by sand, others dancing in the wind. In the afternoon and during sunset, dune buggies raced through the mountains of sand, engines, and passengers screaming as they sped up and down the slopes. If you want an adrenaline kick, a buggy tour in Huacachina might be the perfect activity.

But if you are there to explore and photograph the dunes, looking for beauty in nature, you might be disappointed at first. But don't give up, use the time in the afternoon to explore and scout for compositions. As the sun sets and the wind picks up, you'll find photos that show what this place once was.

Using a wide-angle lens, you can get close to the ground, emphasizing the patterns in the sand while hiding the less photogenic parts of the dunes. Or use a long lens and zoom in on the shapes farther away from town. You can also try to get a custom buggy tour, focusing less on speed and adrenaline, but on taking you deeper into the desert to areas away from the bustle of the town.

Desert Glow

The best tip I can give you is to get up early. Wandering through the dunes an hour before sunrise is a different experience than during the day or in the evening. The town is still asleep, the desert is quiet, and the wind has washed away some of the traces left by the dune buggies and tourists.

Make sure to use the day before to set markers on Google Maps so you can navigate in the dark. You now find beautiful views of the town and Ica glowing in the distance. As the sun rises, the dunes are bathed in beautiful soft light. It was the best time to take photos as I was literally the only person out in the dunes.

The desert oasis of Huacachina at sunrise


Despite the negative aspects of Huacachina I listed above, photographing the dunes is still an experience you should not miss when visiting Peru. If you travel to Cusco by bus, Ica is a good stop along the way. Because of its proximity to Lima, it's also an easy detour, in case you prefer flying to Cusco over a 20-hour bus ride.

One thing I hope is that maybe one day, tourism in Huacachina will focus less on action and more on the extraordinary landscape. It would benefit nature, and I'm sure there would still be enough tourists interested in a visit.

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