My trip to Peru last month taught me that the country is so much more than Machu Picchu. Peru’s number one tourist attraction is indeed a sight to behold, but the tiny cities of Huacachina and Ica, located in Peru’s desert region, did not fail to dazzle either.
Didn’t know that Peru even had a desert region? Don’t worry, it was news to me, too. Machu Picchu is so heralded as a must-see, so promoted throughout mass media, that the lesser-known southwestern part of the country is often skipped over by travellers. Liebling and I, however, looking to relax after a week of travelling at a break-neck pace (often at dizzying altitudes and frigid temperatures), spent three lazy days here.
The fine, gold sands that blanket the region make it popular amongst backpackers looking to dabble in a bit of sandboarding or dune bashing. Huacachina (easier to say than spell) is rife with Aussie tourists toting tell-tale planks and ski boots, and bare-chested locals trying to solicit business. The smelly lagoon that is in the middle of everything is way nicer to look at than swim in.
By contrast, Ica, the capital of the region, is stifling and imposing. In Ica, honking horns and busy bodies are a way of life; cars belch black smoke and the locals purposefully crowd the streets, their faces beaded with sweat. We stayed at a lovely place tucked away from the frenzy and spent two afternoons just lounging around the pool, not a thing on the agenda.
On our last afternoon, however, Liebling braved the oppressive heat and scaled the sand dune behind our hotel. Check out this panorama:
It’s strange, but the more I travel, the more I seem to enjoy these simple, “understated” wonders. The sand dunes of the southwest may not be as impressive as Machu Picchu, but are just as beautiful in their own way.
Have you ever been to a sand dune? Did you know that Peru had a desert?