Most of us are familiar with that classic Hollywood scene; the hero has been wandering the desert, the heat and dry air taking its toll. Then, like a miracle, off in the distance they spot a shimmering oasis. They might even see palm trees. There amongst the dunes is cool, refreshing… sand? The heat and the scorching sun conspired to fool the hero.
In Huacachina, Peru, this image is no illusion. Nestled into the sands of the Atacama Desert is one of the few natural oases left, it's not something most people see every day. In fact, only 96 people live in this beautiful place.
Even in photographs, it just barely looks real. The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, so you’d be forgiven for not believing this evidence.
Almost mythical, an oasis looks as fantastic in real life as it does in the movies. It’s like a beach in reverse.
Despite the small population, Huacachina is quite well-developed, thanks to a robust tourist trade. In earlier years, it was a haven for wealthy Peruvians. Now it hosts visitors from all over the world.
Especially popular with backpackers, the incredible, contrasting natural landscape is a major draw.
And it is incredible, from any angle.
The locals tout the water as having healthful properties, like a natural spa. The sun and palm trees can’t hurt, either.
The town’s history as a wealthy resort destination left its mark in the form of impressive architecture.
And more than one swimming pool.
Boating, swimming, and relaxation are the pastimes of choice in Huacachina.
As often happens when man and nature collide, the desert has reclaimed many parts of the town.
And slowly receding waters have left other areas disused.
Even still, people are finding new adventures to have in this beautiful little spot, like “sandboarding.”
This landmark is so iconic, it made it onto the Peruvian 50 Nuevo Sole banknote.
Credit: Messy Nessy