South America’s Only Natural Oasis

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Located in the sand dunes in southwestern Peru on edge of the Atacama desert is the only natural oasis in the continent of South America.

The oasis is a small natural desert lake, called the Huacachina Lagoon. The lagoon is about two acres in size and is formed by water seeping through the sand from an underground aquifer. The oasis supports the growth of palm trees, eucalyptus, and carob trees.

Drilling for wells as well as evaporation during hot summers has lowered the natural levels of the lagoon. Water levels are maintained by pumping water into the lagoon.

Overview of Huacachina, Peru, seen from the top of a nearby sand dune.
Overview of Huacachina, Peru, seen from the top of a nearby sand dune. Photo: Kay Wiegand/stock.adobe.com.

The oasis is surrounded by a small village called Huacachina. The name comes from the Quechuan language and means “guard” or “conceal”. About 100 year-round residents make this village their home. A popular tourist location for over seven decades, hotels and resorts accommodate tens of thousands of visitors a year. The oasis is known as the “oasis of America.”

Huacachina is about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the city of Ica and five Horus from Lima. This Landsat 8 satellite image shows the proximity of Huacachina from Ica.

The natural oasis of Huacachina in Peru.  Image: Landsat 8, NASA, public domain.
The natural oasis of Huacachina in Peru. Image: Landsat 8, August 15, 2020, NASA, public domain.

South America’s Biggest Sand Dunes

Surrounding Huacachina are South America’s biggest sand dunes. These sand dunes reach several hundred feet high.

Thrill-seekers enjoy sandboarding down the dunes or riding them with sand buggies.

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