Sand dunes are tricky things to measure, but Cerro Blanco near Nazca, Peru, has a legitimate claim to being one of the tallest dunes on the planet. It’s certainly the largest in Peru, and potentially in the world.
Cerro Blanco, also known as Duna Grande, rises up in the deserts to the southeast of the city of Nazca. At around 3,860 feet (1,176 meters) from base to peak, the giant sand dune is taller than the highest mountain in England. From its peak, you can see the entire Nazca Valley and, on a particularly clear day, the Pacific Ocean.
The Nazca civilization once believed the dune to be a source of water, even believing some kind of lake or reservoir lay at its center. Some locals still believe this legend and walk up to the top of the dune to leave offerings, in much the same way as the Nazca before them.
Sandboarders also make the exhausting trek up to the top of the dune, where the sun beats down and the dry wind offers little relief from the heat. They might also zip up in a 4x4 dune buggy, which seems far more sensible but isn’t always easy to arrange, as even the most nimble of vehicles struggle to get up the dune.
Either way, once at the top these thrill-seekers have a largely unimpeded path from peak to base, enjoying uninterrupted slides of 2,600 feet or more down the steep face of the dune. The descent lasts around four minutes at full speed - or a lot longer if you keep falling over.
Know Before You Go
You can organize Cerro Blanco excursions in Nazca. Most trips leave early in the morning to avoid trekking up the dune in the heat of the day.