Love archeology? Love mystery? Love flying above a barren desert floor in search of ancient geoglyphs in the shape of hummingbirds, spiders, and monkeys?
Then learn about how to visit the Nazca Lines in southern Peru sounds like the perfect add-on to your next South America tour vacation.
What You’ll See
The ancient Nazca Lines are a collection of geometrical lines and figures that were drawn into the desert floor in southern Peru over millennia ago. The ancient Nazca people brought these lines, which stretch several kilometers in length, and also built underground aqueducts, temples, and villages.
Many theories have sprung up around the purpose of the Nazca Lines, some theories more convincing than others, but most scholars believe the lines were created for religious or astrological purposes. A National Geographic article suggests that the Nazca people were water-worshippers and that the lines were built in celebration of water deities.
The Nazca Lines are still somewhat shrouded in mystery, which seems to contribute to their fame and allure.
How Much Time to Spend in Nazca
When planning how to visit the Nazca Lines on a Peru tour, plan on staying in the small city of Nazca, about a day’s drive from Lima, and explore the Nazca ruins and the lines themselves.
Spend the night in a Nazca hotel, then get up early and take a short, 30-minute overflight to see the best of the Nazca Lines. Peer out over the desert landscape and see the famous figures of a hummingbird, lizard, spider, monkey, and more. The morning is the best time to fly when there is less air turbulence.
The return trip from Lima to Nazca usually takes 2-3 days, with an 8-hour bus ride each way. Nazca is also a good stopping point when continuing to Arequipa in southern Peru.
Alternatively, you could transfer from Lima to Ica, a much shorter bus ride away than Lima-Nazca. Then in Ica, you can fly over the Nazca Lines. This is a great alternative for those who are short on time. Also, the advantage of transferring to Ica is that you can visit the Ballestas Islands, the Paracas National Reserve, and the Huacachina desert oasis nearby. Plus, Ica has some pisco distilleries and bodegas where you can go wine tasting.
But for true archaeology and history buffs, it’s best to travel to the town of Nazca itself.
After your Nazca flight, if you still want to see some more Nazca Lines – this time a bit more up close and personal – head over to the Nazca Lines Mirador on the Pan-Americana highway. The Mirador looks out over a couple of the Lines. If you go just before sunset, you’ll get magnificent views.
Other Things to Do While in Nazca
While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the Maria Reiche Observatory at the Hotel Nazca Lines. The hotel once housed the famous archeologist Maria Reiche, who spent much of her life dedicated to understanding the Nazca Lines. You’ll hear a lecture about the researcher, get an excellent overview of the Nazca Lines – including the discovery of the lines in the early 20th century, and scope out some of the stars and planets in the Southern hemisphere.
Also check out the Chauchilla cemetery, which lies just outside of town. The cemetery allows visitors to see the burial traditions of the ancient pre-Inca culture. Many skeletons are well-preserved, including long dreds of hair. The graves were robbed over the centuries, but there is still plenty to see, and there are informative guides on site to help you make sense of it all.
You’ll also want to visit the Nazca aqueducts, which are located right beside a farm and cactus field that are irrigated by the aqueducts. These water systems feature a spiral pattern that makes it easy to access water several feet below ground. These aqueducts have been in continual use for centuries.
You can visit the Nazca Lines on our Essence of Peru Tour, which covers the highlights of Peru within 2 weeks.