You know those movies where a deserter from the French Foreign Legion is crawling through the desert on his knees, panting for breath, then spies an oasis? He's beside himself with joy as he runs towards it, then it evaporates into thin air. Never having deserted the French Foreign Legion, I had always assumed oases were probably all of the disappearing-into-thin-air variety. But apparently they really exist, where the land is low enough for water to gush out of underground pools. Travel way out into the Peruvian desert and, if you're lucky, you'll stumble across Huacachina, a tiny, green oasis.
At about 4km from the town of Ica in the Ocucaje desert, Huacachina is not actually all that remote. But it's a tiny village (population c.100), surrounded in palm trees and phenomenally high dunes, so it looks incredible. If you love sandboarding, this may be about the best place in the world to do it, and apparently the place to stay is the Hotel Mossone, a beautiful old colonial-style inn.
Legend has it that the water appeared when a princess was chased from her bath by a young hunter. As she fled, she left a pool of water behind her and her mantle created the dunes. Apparently, the princess still lives in the water as a mermaid. A lesser-known fact is that the desert is full of fossilized whale bones and shark teeth. Or more specifically teeth from the Carcharodon Megalodon who frequented the ocean that used to be here, back when water was abundant, 25 million years or so ago. RM