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Going Off The Beaten Path In The Nazca Desert in Peru

Peru is an incredibly diverse country. It has the wet Amazonian jungles, the high snow-capped mountains of the Andes. But on that day, it was one of the most arid deserts on the planet I was stepping on: Peru’s coastal desert, more precisely in the Nazca Desert. (Yes, the famous Nazca Lines you are thinking of are not very far.)

Just travel some 1000 km (620 mi) towards the south, and you will find yourself in the middle of the Atacama Desert in Chile, the official driest region on Earth. In the region of Ica, we are then in the suburb of the Atacama, so to speak. If you ignore the little drizzle they sometimes get in Januray and February, it doesn’t rain.

To tell the truth, this road trip to the Lost Canyon has been on the back of my mind for quite some time, after coming across some pictures of it online (it often starts this way).

However, I wasn’t sure how easy it would be to find someone to take me there, and I didn’t even know where exactly it was on the map! Nothing too unusual for a Lost Canyon, after all.

After spending a couple days marveling at the majestic sand dunes around the Huachinca Oasis, I was determined to take this desert experience a step further and go more off the beaten track far into the Nazca Desert.

The Lost Canyon was a perfect opportunity to do just this. And good news, my hotel was able to organize it!

Just to disclose everything and make it clear to you, I stayed at two different hotels in Huacachina. The one I asked to plan this canyon trip is the second one, called Hospedaje Rocha. However, my favorite hotel in Huacachina was the first one, Wild Olive Guesthouse, which I recommend in the ‘Quick Info’ table. I believe they are able to organise this tour too.

Anyway, I can tell you right away that this desert trip didn’t disappoint me, you can probably tell from my happy face in the video below!

Quick Info

GPS (canyon): 14°45’15.75″S, 75°30’50.77″W

How to go: Talk to your hotel/guesthouse in Ica or Huacachina to arrange a tour with car and driver.

Price: I paid 200 soles (60 USD) per person for 2 persons.

Duration of the tour: Whole day.

When to go: Possible all year long

Hotel recommendation: Wild Olive Guesthouse (Huacachina)

Lost Canyon & Nazca Desert Travel Video

My experience at the Lost Canyon in 2 minutes!

Making Our Way To The Lost Canyon

At 7:30 in the morning, as my girlfriend and I got out of our hotel with the lunch box we had bought the day before, our car was already waiting for us.

A 3-hour scenic drive in the desert was awaiting us; and although I have always loved the desert, I didn’t know I would be so blown away by this road trip.

The good thing about such private tours is that you can tell your driver to stop wherever and whenever you want, and it took a great deal of self-control not to stop every two minutes because the desert scenery just seemed to get more and more stunning after every turn of the road.

OK, I am not too sure what we were driving on actually suits the definition of a road. “Some tyre tracks on the sand” would be a more appropriate description. We were in the middle of nowhere.

The Lost Canyon – or by its real, local name Cañon de Los Perdidos – was discovered only recently, which is quite surprising at the age of high resolution satellite imagery. But when you think about it, why would people venture there? Why would anyone look in this direction? At first glance, it’s nothing but an empty desert. The canyon itself isn’t even visible until you get to it.

As a matter of fact, Cañon de Los Perdidos doesn’t exactly mean “Lost Canyon”, but rather “Canyon of the Lost [People]”.

In June 2011, the Touristic Commission of Ocucaje (the main town in the area) set up a little expedition to get to the canyon. They invited a few people to join, including a scientist and a local journalist, and the group was split in two cars.

If the first car reached the canyon without trouble, the second car got completely lost in the desert and never made it to the canyon! This inspired the journalist to call this canyon Cañon de Los Perdidos in next day’s issue of the local newspaper. The canyon’s official name was born!

Luckily enough, our driver perfectly knew which way to go, when to turn, in the middle of the desert, without the help of any GPS. He knew the road by heart. We would not be the Perdidos on that day.


Total Immersion In The Desert

Peru’s Nazca Dersert is the most hostile and lifeless environment you can imagine. Rocks, sand, dust… as far as you can see. That’s also what makes it so fascinating.

The only notable exception is the valley of the Rio Ica (the Ica River) making its way through the golden sands. Flowing straight from the Andes, the river is the only place you will find water and a bit of plant life in the area.

That’s where we stopped first, appreciating the contrast between the lush greenery growing along the river and the dead lands around. We were already 40 km (25 mi) away from Ica, but only halfway to the canyon.

As we were getting swallowed by the immensity of the desert, I started getting these same feelings of excitement that I had when visiting southern Bolivia many years before – the feeling that if I was walking on some other planet, it wouldn’t look that much different.

We stopped on a couple more occasions, exploring a strange yellow rock formation, and overlooking mind-blowing landscapes made of colorful arid mountain ranges, dusty gravel plains and endless stretches of sand. That’s more than enough to make you forget that the Sechura Desert is a coastal desert and that the Pacific Ocean is less than 20 km (12 mi) away!


Exploring the Lost Canyon

It’s quite striking to notice how the Lost Canyon is almost invisible from a distance. But when you get to it, you directly arrive at its most impressive part.

Here, the Rio Seco (Dry River) patiently and relentlessly dug the rocks, rainy season after rainy season, rewarding us today with this impressive stone cathedral.

There is something picturesque, almost elegant about this canyon. Could it be its harmonious curves? Its golden color? At the second you lay eyes on it, you can’t help feeling it just looks really special.

Since it would be a perilous enterprise to just directly go down to the bottom of the canyon, the exploration starts at the top. You first need to follow the canyon, along the edge for about a kilometer (0.6 mi). I couldn’t stop looking down, trying to uncover what I would be able to see inside the canyon.

Remember the Ica River we left some time ago in the morning? Here it is again, with some trees adding a welcome touch of green in this mineral world.

The Rio Seco is a tributary of the Rio Ica, and the two rivers join precisely at the end of the canyon. After flowing for 16 more kilometers or so (10 mi), the waters of the Rio Ica finally end their overland journey and meet the ocean.

To get from the plateau at the top of the canyon to the river bed, you need to go down a slope that can be a little treacherous for those who are not used to it. Go slow!



We eventually made our way inside the wide open canyon, gradually becoming more and more narrow and its walls more and more vertical. Once again, I was enchanted by these gracefully curved, undulating walls, carved by water, wind, and a lot of time.

Even though you might see a trickle of water flowing on Rio Seco’s bed, when you are walking on the dry mud and looking at the narrow crack waiting to be explored, the last thing you expect to find there is a body of water. Unless you read this article before going, of course. Sorry for the spoiler!

But indeed, one of the most surprising features to be found at the bottom of the canyon is a whole series of ponds. The first one is probably to most stunning, with its round shape, it seems to have been carefully scuplted inside the rocky floor and canyon walls. Yet another proof that Nature can be an artist, too.

From this point, it takes a bit of rock climbing to explore the canyon further, but it’s of course well worth it!

By the time we finished our visit and got back to the car, it was the middle of the afternoon and the clouds had invaded the sky. It was time to drive back to Ica, delighted with our desert experience.


Final Thoughts

The Nazca Desert is starting to reveal its hidden gems! Most people flock to the Huacachina Oasis in Ica, attracted by the grand sand dunes scenery. Few seem to realize that these sand dunes, as majestic as they are, are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of places worth seeing in this region.

Here you have an ideal opportunity to go beyond the obvious, and really immerse yourself in the beauty of the coastal desert of Peru.

Virtual Tour Map

Zoom in to explore!

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  1. Pellet Martine 4 months ago

    Tu m’as fait passer un bon moment, et merci pour le partage. J’aime bien la petite histoire du Lost Canyon… Continue de nous faire voyager Julien !

  2. PossesstheWorld 4 months ago

    I knew nothing about this desert before reading this post, your information is great and the photos are spectacular. What a great natural place to visit. Thanks for sharing

    • Author
      Julien 4 months ago

      Thank you for your kind words!

  3. Kareemah Ashiru 4 months ago

    You did an absolutely fantastic job on Peru. The Atacama desert, aka the driest desert in the world. It was very brave of you to go through there. Anyway, I’ll be saving this post for the future as I plan on visiting Peru soon.

    • Author
      Julien 4 months ago

      Glad you enjoyed it Kareemah!

  4. Baia Dzagnidze 4 months ago

    This place looks absolutely stunning. Loved your video too. Would love to get lost in there

    • Author
      Julien 4 months ago

      Thanks a lot Baia glad you liked it 🙂

  5. Marta 4 months ago

    Loved reading this article and learning about the Lost Canyon! Your photos were beautiful, too.

    • Author
      Julien 4 months ago

      Thank you very much Marta!

  6. umiko 4 months ago

    Wow! Looks like you’re the only one there. It looks amazing and enjoyed your video. I like the picture of your girlfriend that looked like inside the cave. I have never thought about going there nor heard about the place though. Now I know. Thank you.

    • Author
      Julien 4 months ago

      Yes this place is still unheard of for many travelers in the region, but I hope this article will contribute to make it more famous!

  7. Marissa 3 months ago

    Your video of the Lost Canyon is so beautiful! It looks like you’re on another planet. I did a similar hike in southern Patagonia and felt like I was on Mars.

    • Author
      Julien 3 months ago

      It’s true that South America is full of otherworldly landscapes!

  8. Ghia Lorenzo 3 months ago

    Thanks for sharing this post! I really love the photos I such an incredible place! Indeed a stunning landscape in Peru, the canyons are so beautiful. Even watched the video and indeed a breathtaking view from this lost canyon. Thanks for this informative post, I hope this lost canyon of Ica, Peru gets famous someday.

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Glad you enjoyed it Ghia! I am sure it will get more and more famous in the years to come.

  9. Mags Nixon 3 months ago

    Wow I’d never heard of this Lost Canyon before. Loved the film clip. It looks like you were the only person there! Really want to visit Peru so thanks I’ll definitely put this on itinerary.

  10. Hannah Lukaszewicz 2 months ago

    There is so much to Peru I didn’t even realize. We visited Peru over 4 years ago and have been dying to get back. Def putting this on our Peru bucket list.

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Thanks for the comment Hannah, Peru is definitely packed with amazing places and it would take several trips to fully appreciate it.

  11. Rosemary 2 months ago

    What a great post about Ica and the lost canyon. I’ve been to San Pedro de Atacama and that is a unique experience on it’s own. Your experience in Ica takes it to another level. I too enjoy the desert. Must add this experience for my next trip to Peru. Safe travels!

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Thanks Rosemary! How lucky to have been to San Pedro! I haven’t crossed the border when I was in Bolivia. The desert is amazing, you should visit this canyon while it’s still not too famous!

  12. Kiyoko 2 months ago

    Looks like you had a great time! I would definitely love to visit myself! Peru has slowly been creeping its way up towards the top of my bucket list, so I’ll definitely make sure I save this for when I finally make it there. After seeing Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, USA, I’ve been itching to check out more majestic canyons.
    Kiyoko recently posted…A Dreamer’s Guide to Trip Planning: Trip Research and Creating an ItineraryMy Profile

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Thanks for the comment Kiyoko! I’m envious that you saw Hawaii! Peru is an incredible country that I have visited 3 times so far, and I am never tired of going. You won’t be disappointed!

  13. Sandy N Vyjay 2 months ago

    The varied landscapes of Peru are mesmerizing. This is a fresh and not often visited perspective of Peru. The journey to the lost canyon itself seems so fascinating as you traverse the wilderness of the deserts. The Lost Canyon looks straight out of a Sc-Fi movie, a land from another world.The experience must have been really awesome and something which will remain etched in your memory for a long, long time.

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      For sure Sandy! It’s an experience I will remember for a long time and this desert is truly spectacular. Thanks for the comment!

  14. Dorene 2 months ago

    I love this virtual tour! This is pretty fantastic! I have to go back to Peru– yeah did Huacachina – but this does not even compare, your photos are incredible, thanks for the wanderlust!

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Thank you very much Dorene! Huacachina is already beautiful but this feels like true exploration and you can feel the majesty of the desert.

  15. Divyakshi Gupta 2 months ago

    What a fabulous fabulous place! The landscapes are breathtaking. I understand what you mean by the immensity of the place . Truly it feels like you guys discovered it and with that pool of water and those canyons, it feels straight out of a movie! 🙂
    Thanks for unearthing this gem for us. Would so love to visit this someday. The video left me awestruck! 🙂

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Thank you so much Divyakshi! I’m glad you enjoyed the article and the video. It did feel like we were the first ones to ever cross these landscapes and walk in this canyon. I am really glad to have seen it before it gets too famous and crowded.

  16. Medha Verma 2 months ago

    Your photos are beautiful and I felt like I was at The Lost Canyon while watching your video. I am not much of a fan of desert landscape (mostly because I am surrounded by it, living in the UAE) but if I was to visit Peru, I’d definitely want to check this place out. Thanks for the recommendations!

    • Author
      Julien 2 months ago

      Hey Medha, thanks for your comment! I can understand you got tired of the desert, but this canyon is certainly special enough for you to enjoy 🙂

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