Huacachina, Peru

you’re sitting atop a giant wind-sculpted sand dune watching the sun set psychedelically over a landscape of golden yellows and rusty reds. Two hundred meters below you lies a dreamy desert lagoon ringed by exotic palm trees, and furnished with a clutch of rustic yet suitably elegant hotels. It took you an exhausting 20 minutes to climb up to this lofty vantage point, but with a well-waxed sandboard wedged beneath your belly you’ll be down in less than one.

While not as famous as Nazca to the south, Huacachina, an aesthetically perfect desert oasis 4km west of Ica, is a firmly established stopover on Southern Peru’s well-trampled Gringo Trail, and with good reason. Sandboarding, dune-buggie rides and good-old romantic idling are the orders of the day here. This is backpacker central, so expect plenty of late-night disco parties and international flavors. Many people just make it here for a quick overnight and dune trip the next day, but a few days of relaxed strolls and dune climbs may just channel your inner chi.

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