Drive 10 minutes through the pale, mountainous sand dunes southwest of Ica, and you'll suddenly see a gathering of attractive, pastel-colored buildings surrounding a patch of green. It's not an oasis on the horizon, but rather the lakeside resort of Huacachina, a palm-fringed lagoon of jade-tinged waters whose sulfurous properties are reputed to have healing powers. The view is breathtaking: a collection of attractive, colonial-style hotels in front of a golden beach, with a backdrop of snow-covered peaks against the distant sky. In the 1920s, Peru's elite traveled here on holiday, and today the spacious resorts still beckon. The lake is a pilgrimage site for those with skin and other health problems, sandboarders who want to tackle the 100-meter (325-foot) dunes, and budget travelers who pitch tents in the sand or sleep under the stars.

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Fodor's Essential Peru: with Machu Picchu & the Inca Trail

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