If you ever plan a trip to Peru, one of the biggest tourists spots you’ll see outside of Machu Picchu is Huacachina – a desert oasis right outside of the city of Ica in southern Peru. If you follow travel accounts on Instagram, you’ve probably seen people taking pictures of the oasis from on top of the sand dunes (I know I’ve seen it a million times). Huacachina is mostly marketed as a place to come for the day to relax and have fun by sand boarding or dune buggying on the massive sand dunes near by.
So before visiting, I just thought Huacachina was nothing more than a cool place to spend the day and I had no idea (as I think most people don’t) that there is a local legend behind the oasis and for your reading pleasure, it goes a little something like this:
Let’s start with the name shall we? The word is derived from a mix between Quechua (the
second offical national language) and Peruvian Spanish slang. Huaca, in Quechua, means “mourning” or “crying.” And China, literally meaning Chinese woman, is just slang for any young woman here in Peru. So all together, it means the Oasis of the Weeping Woman.
And why is why weeping? She’s weeping because, like in a lot of legends, this is a classic story of a love lost. The Huacachina was an Incan princess who fell in love with a finer than wine handsome prince. In some super predicable twist of fate, the prince dies suddenly and the princess is thrown into a deep depression. In her state of despair, she cried so much that she created a lagoon in the middle of the desert.
One day, the morose maiden was taking a bath in her lagoon of tears and a hunter came upon her and startled her so much she began to run. In her running, her mantle streamed behind her creating the sand dunes that are still there today. It is said that overtime, the Huacachina turned into a siren that lives in the lake who at any moment can choose to claim the life of those who dare to swim in her tears.