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Caterina Rancho

Discovering The Hidden Gardens of Peru’s Oasis Huacachina

The story of Peru’s Oasis Huacachina is one of mystery, intrigue, and exoticism. As the last remaining natural lake in the middle of State Pisco desert, it is one of Peru’s hidden majesties—and a stunning backdrop to some of the most unexpected “gardening” in South America. Part of the oasis’ charm stems from its unique position at the nape of 300-meter high sand dunes that tower above the village; to the sandboarders who scale the dunes in pursuit of an epic ride, Huacachina’s gardens look like one of Magritte’s paintings—a lush patch of green nestled in an endless sea of sand that seems to defy logic. Once inside the village, visitors also note that Huacachina is full of colorful flowers despite the arid climate.

Here in the last remaining oasis, there are cacti and sumptuous pink Bougainvillea clustered together in the streets….hummingbirds that flutter amongst the foliage add a certain charm that desert climates typically lack.[addtoany]

For Gardeners, Oasis Huacachina presents a rare opportunity to see gardens that are lost in time and space. Climate Scientists suggest that Huacachina’s lake is slowly drying up, and many of the idyll’s street plants increasingly reflect the uniqueness of a typical desert climate. Four other lakes like this one used to exist near Huacachina, but all of them have since dried out. Here in the last remaining oasis, there are cacti and sumptuous pink Bougainvillea clustered together in the streets, there are potted shrubs lining the windows of private homes, and there are spiky palms bordering the lagoon—but the butterflies and hummingbirds that flutter amongst the foliage add a certain charm that desert climates typically lack. The soothing air of the Ica Province is also so nourishing that it’s said to cure asthma—which is useful in a place that’s capable of taking your breathe away.

The magical qualities of Huacachina lagoon persist even in folklore. According to local legend, the lake was created when a young hunter apprehended a beautiful native princess when she was taking a bath. The woman fled, leaving the pool of water she had been bathing in to “become the lagoon”; the folds of her cloak, which rippled behind her as she ran, became the surrounding sand dunes. To this day, it is said that the princess still lives as a mermaid in the lake, surrounded by the colonial homes and verdant gardens of the village on its banks.

Eventually, however, the legend of Huacachina will fade—the lake will dry up, and the gardens will wither as more and more people siphon water away from the lagoon– but for now, the beautiful plants of the village remain. Strolling through Oasis Huacachina feels like a dream set in southwestern Peru: the gardens on the lagoon might not last forever, but the memory of their beauty will never fade.

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