The Nazca lines, a UNESCO World Heritage site that still baffles scientists and archeologists, is a must visit for everyone who comes to Peru must have.
A perfect place between three major cities
Most people don’t know that the Nazca lines are just one of the many reasons to visit the region. Indeed, the region of Nazca, located on the lower part of the Peruvian southern coast, is a very spectacular place from a historical and archeological point of view.
If you are traveling by bus, it is a great place to stop and spend some time. The town of Nazca is a go-through point on the overland route between Cusco and Lima, and is also within nine hours of Arequipa. Stay in town, and give yourself a couple of days to explore the region.
Who were the Nazca?
The Nazca lived in the deserts of southern Peru between 100 BCE, and 750 CE. They were descendants of the Paracas, which was an important pre-Inca culture that, by developing agriculture, made it possible for the Nazca to thrive. This brilliant culture eventually had its downfall, mostly due to the devastation wrought by floods that came with a strong El Niño. Every two to 10 years, this unusual ocean current happens along the western coast of South America and causes noticeable or sometimes severe changes in the weather conditions in many areas of the world. In their wake, the Nazca’s left behind some of the most incredible constructions that mankind has ever known.
Are you especially interested in the Peruvian history and more specifically on archeology? Find out more about it in this interview to the Italian archeologist Giuseppe Orefici.
Why did the Nazca build these lines?
There are many ideas as to why the Nazca people built these magnificent lines. According to mainstream scientists’ theories, the Nazca people created them as a tribute to the celestial beings that they saw in the skies. These figures etched into the ground and were meant to depict their Gods.
There are over 300 linear designs etched onto the surface of the Nazca desert. They include straight lines, triangles, rectangles, trapezoids, swirls, and zigzags, as well as primitive plant and animal patterns. Some of these lines stretch into a distance of more than 30 miles. Others are as large as the Empire State Building. It’s still not known for sure what purpose these lines served, but it is agreed that they played a crucial role in the development of pre-Inca Nazca cultures.
Mysteries surrounding the origin of these enormous pictographs inspire many conspiracy theories such as the belief that they were built by aliens. This view was first popularized by Erich von Daniken who claimed that the Nazca Lines were drawn by ancient astronauts.
What is the best way to enjoy the Nazca lines
How you want to experience the Nazca lines depends entirely on your budget. There are several options.
From the top of a tower
For those of you that travel on a tight budget, climbing up the viewing tower would be a good option. This simple metal structure, consisting of four staircases, can take you 13 meters above the ground. A ride in collectivo (local bus) from the city center to this location will cost you around 3 soles ($1 US dollar), which is also the price to enter the viewing tower. From the top, three different spectacular lines can be seen. Keen to see more? You can also hike up to the top of a nearby hill, where you’ll have excellent views of other lines.
From the skies
However, the Nazca lines are best appreciated when seen from above. Flying over the lines is, therefore, the best option as it offers a bird’s eye view of the important etchings. If your budget allows you to do it, then go for it!
You can also book a seat on a small plane for a cost between $80 and $100 US dollars. The trip will last between 20 and 30 minutes, taking you over all of the major Nazca sites. Flights are available daily, from 7:00 am to 4:00 pm, and the most well-known companies that offer this service are AeroNazca, AeroParacas and Movil Air.
By Julia Natri.
Cover photo: Pxhere
This article has been updated from its original publication on March 13, 2019.