Travel lifestyle

Paracas Peru – Adventures in the California Desert

“This guest post by Juan Lena & Kyle Browning from The Kangaroo Kite covers all you need to know about sandboarding and dune buggying in Paracas, Peru.”

Paracas is a small town 250 km South of Lima, Perú. Most people know it for the famous Ballestas Islands and the incredible wildlife living amongst them.

Paracas Peru Adventure

Paracas is also a newfound gem for the adrenaline junkies looking for kitesurfing lessons in Peru. Mainly because it offers amazing conditions to practice the sport! However, this blog is not about wildlife or kiteboarding, because there are definitely more things to do in this desertic Peruvian paradise. 

kiteboarding in paracas peru

Today you will be reading about one of the most underrated but incredible activities to do here. From a unique roller coaster ride to a freshwater oasis in the middle of nowhere, here’s a full day at the California Desert.

Located in the Ica Region, just outside Paracas Town, with a surface of around 450 square kms, the California Desert is an extensive sand dune area that is a part of the widespread coastal desert characterizing most of the Peruvian shoreline landscape.

Creating an arid climate with almost no precipitations throughout the entire year, the California Desert is home to the ever-changing, labyrinthic sand dunes. Why ever-changing?  Paracas literally means sand-storm in the Ancient Quechua language. 

In this area, due to a thermal effect created by the difference of temperature between the cold ocean breeze and the warm air above the desert, there’s an average of 15 knots of wind almost every day! 

This wind shapes and changes the sand dunes constantly. Sounds pretty interesting right? But enough of the geological information, let’s get to the fun part.

Dune Buggying in Paracas

dune buggy the california desert peru

Imagine drinking you morning coffee at your hotel and suddenly hearing a roaring sound approaching, the coffee on your mug starts tingling (kind of like in Jurassic Park, but less exaggerated) and the earth starts shaking! 

No, it’s not an earthquake, although that could be a possibility, it’s the V8 motor on the Monster Sand Buggies that are coming to pick you up. With spots for up to 12 people these huge cars are prepared for absolutely everything. 

Hop on, strap your seatbelts tight and get ready for the trip of a lifetime!

The experienced driver knows the California desert like the palm of his hand, and he will start the trip taking you through some of the haciendas that produce the local fruit and vegetables sold in the area: you can see tomatoes, onions and even apples during the first part of the trip. 

As soon as you’ve past all the haciendas, that’s when the real fun starts. The driver switches the gear to 4WD and makes the engine roar. 

The first part of the adventure is climbing a huge sand dune to get into the California Desert. You will feel that same anxiety you get on a roller coaster as it climbs up higher and higher towards the sky. So, turn you Go Pro’s on and hold on for your dear life! 

dune buggy california desert peru

As soon as you’ve made the climb to the very top of the dune the driver might stop for a few seconds to let you enjoy the incredible landscape that the desertic sand dune ocean has to offer! 

But do not get too romantic, because after saying the words “Aqui es donde comienza la Aventura” (Here’s where the adventure begins), he’ll get his foot of the brake and go pedal to the metal on the gas, making the biggest drop you’ll ever experience! 

Your chest will start pumping, the adrenaline will start running through your veins and tears will form up in your eyes. The adventure has actually begun!

When I say roller coaster ride, I mean it! You will get all the thrill elements of a roller coaster, like the bank turns on the dune sides, brake runs right before a big drop and even helix like turns from one sand dune to the other! 

When you think you’ve had enough adrenaline, you will stop in the middle of the desert, at the top of another huge sand dune and you’ll get ready for some sandboarding.

Sandboarding in Paracas

sandboarding in paracas peru

Hop off the truck, re-apply some sunscreen (important), and don’t forget to have your shoes on (Sand is super-hot!), it’s time for some sandboarding. 

First choose you weapon! You can select two types of boards, the sandboard with foot straps or the pro one with boots on (kind of like in snowboarding). Get some wax on the bottom of the boards and then you are ready for action! 

A personal recommendation would be to do the first drop sitting on the board, just to feel the speed and get used to the terrain and the wipeouts. Yes, you will probably wipe out hard on your first drops and you’ll be covered in sand like a chicken Milanese. 

But don’t worry about this! The last surprise of the adventure will have you fresh and clean for your ride to town. But let’s get back to the action.

Once you’ve made that first drop sitting, and you’ve climbed up the dune again, get ready for the real thing. 

Time to strap your feet to the board and go down standing. 

What it’s like to Sandboard in Peru

learning to sandboard in peru

Recommendation, start off by putting a lot of weight on your back foot and keeping your center of gravity (hips) very close to the board, this will prevent you from catapulting forward and you can also get your hand on the sand to try and brake if you feel you are getting too much speed. 

After the first few drops, you’ll get more confident and start trying some turns or even some jumps. Oh, you will also have a big laugh watching the rest of your crew getting some explosive wipeouts.

Like I mentioned before, by the end of the sandboarding session you will probably be completely covered in sand, but don’t worry, the next part of the adventure is the perfect combo to clean up and relax. 

Time to head to the Oasis! Yes, you’ve read correctly, an oasis in the middle of the desert. Hop back into the Buggy and you are ready for action again. 

The Oasis in Paracas

paracas peru oasis

After a few minutes riding you will start noticing some green patches in the middle of the desert and all of the sudden, after a big dune drop, you’ll see the magical oasis appear. 

There is a Hacienda built in the entrance of the oasis and just a few meters after you’ll cross some plants and boom, a huge lagoon of fresh water will appear amongst the sand dunes. 

You’ve reached the last part of the adventure, now it’s time to clean up, sit back and relax. Dip headfirst into the water and feel the coolness refresh all the desert heat. There are a couple of Kayaks and even SUPs to ride and discover the lagoon with your friends. 

oasis in paracas california desert

When you come back from your ride you might start smelling the sweet scent of meet cooking in the barbecue! 

Yes, you’ve read correctly again, when you thought the adventure couldn’t get any better, the driver is cooking a barbecue for you! All you have to do is grab a cold beer from the cooler, sit back under the sun, and just relax.  Another thing, if you pay close attention you will also be able to watch some really cool species of birds! 

peru birds at oasis

Alright, you’ve enjoyed an incredible roller coaster ride and discovered the vast California Desert while the adrenaline pumped through your veins. 

You’ve tried sandboarding and went from nasty wipeouts to drawing nice lines on the sandy canvas and finally, you’ve cooled down at a secret Oasis Lagoon. All of this just in the morning! Time to head back and maybe continue the adventure. 

How does some kitesurfing in the afternoon sound like? If you still have energy contact the guys at Kangaroo Kite Peru for the best kite lessons in Paracas.

Tips and Recommendations for Sandboarding in Peru

The mornings in the desert can get a little chilly so take a hoodie for the first few minutes of the tour until you get warmed up. 

Remember we are going to the desert so take a lot of water, apply and re-apply sunscreen, take sunglasses and a hat. 

And very important, don’t forget to take a pair of shoes with you, the sand can get very hot and walking up the sand dunes barefoot is going to burn like hell! Remember to book the tour with the complete barbecue and beer service, this way you’ll enjoy the complete adventure.

Now you know! Paracas, Peru isn’t just about the Ballestas Islands and the incredible kitesurfing conditions! There’s a lot of things to do and keep you entertained!

Enjoy these adventures in Paracas Peru? Save it to Pinterest for your future travel planning.

paracas peru adventures sanboarding dune buggy

Read More about Travel in Peru

About Kyle Browning

Kyle Browning writes about Adventure Travel, Wildlife Conservation & Sustainability at Softback Travel and Green Thinker
Softback Travel tells stories and explains matters, in order to inform and inspire you to discover your own adventure, to travel sustainably and to embrace our planet’s fascinating and precious wildlife.
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