If you stumble upon the city of Huacachina, you might think it was a mirage. Huacachina is centered around a lagoon lined with lush vegetation. All are located in the driest desert in the world. Wrapped between the largest sand dunes in South America, it is the only natural oasis on the continent.
On August 15, 2020, Landsat 8 Land Imager (OLI) captured this image of Huacachina և adjacent sand dunes. Huacachina is located in southwestern Peru on the edge of the Atacama Desert. The city is located about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from the city of Ica.
Roughly translated as “weeping woman” in Kuchua, Huakachina has several mythological stories. One of the legends says that a beautiful Inca princess named Huakachina was mourning the loss of her lover, and her tears formed the lagoon. One day a warrior saw him and terrified the princess, who ran for hours in the water to hide. When she tried to leave, she turned into a mermaid. Another version says that the princess was holding a mirror, admiring her when the warrior saw her. When he ran away in surprise, the mirror fell and shattered. The cup became a small pool in the desert, swallowed by the princess, making her a mermaid. Many legends say that Huacachina still lives in the pool է goes out at night to seduce swimmers.
The oasis actually originates from groundwater aquifers through water that penetrates through the sand, helping to promote the growth of palms, eucalyptus and carob around the pool. Go, which covers only about 2 hectares, is surrounded by businesses, hotels and restaurants. The town of Oasis has been inhabited for about 100 years. In recent years, the water level in the bay has decreased due to the drilling of nearby wells and evaporation during hot summers. The city then supplies water to the lagoon from external sources.
A five-hour bus ride from Lima, Huacachina has been a popular tourist destination for over 70 years. The city entertained many of Peru’s financial elites in the 1940s, and today attracts tens of thousands of tourists each year. Once called the “Oasis of America”, Huacachina was on display at 50 Nueva Sol currency banknotes until 2006.
Climbing sand dunes beyond the oasis rise several hundred feet as high as small mountains. They provide wonderful sand adventures. Adrenaline junkies can slide like hills, tuberculosis or snowboarding. Visitors can hike through the dunes or hike, although the sand makes hiking difficult.
NASA Image of the Earth Observatory by Laurent Dauphin using data from the US Geological Survey. Photo by Havardtl և Used under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.