Nazca, Peru & The Nazca Lines Travel Guide
Etched into the rocky desert near Nazca, Peru is an approximate 500 square miles of ancient drawings including numerous parallel lines, geometrical figures plus pictures of a tree, hummingbird, monkey, spider, killer whale, birds and hundreds of other figures. Why were they created?
Theories range from early Nazca peoples (400-600 AD) having created an astronomical calendar (debunked as do not match up to astral configurations) to a giant running track to the drawings being musings of ancient Peruvians who could fly.
Ancient Peruvians who could fly? The International Explorers Society were wrong in their literal interpretation but may have been on the right track as current speculations focus on the drawings having meant to be viewed by Shamans on their spiritual quests – who with the help of hallucinogenic substances astral travel through space; a form of flying. In 1994 the Nazca Lines were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Note: If you are the curious type who wants to learn more, scroll down to the Nazca Reference List below for books, movies and articles on the subject.
The designs were not actually etched into the earth, but created by removing parts of the top level reddish-colored gravel in order to uncover the chalk-like stones underneath (why the lines are white in color). They have been described as ‘furrows’ as that is what they look like when viewed up close; shallow trenches dug into the earth.
The archeological term for the lines is “geoglyphs“. One definition of a geoglyph is: “works of art that were made from moving or arranging stones or earth or other objects within a landscape.” Source: About.com Archeology. The lines have maintained their form since their creation (193 BC and 648 AD) due to the constant wind which keeps sand from filling in the furrows.
It is easy to get to see the lines up close, as well as three figures: a tree, hand and part of a lizard (is too large to see in its entirety from the ground, only possible from air) from the metal observatory tower on the Panamericana. View the Nazca photo page to see a picture of the tower – also called Mirador or “lookout point” – and of the tree figure viewed from atop it.
The tower was built and financed by Maria Reiche and is a short 20 minutes by bus from Nazca. The bus company Soyuz (Calle Lima #155, every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.) drops you off across the highway from the tower, when finished viewing you just flag down the next bus heading back to town. There is a second site nearby you can walk to and actually walk within some of the lines; a great alternative to those who cannot afford to view by plane.
Viewing the Nazca Lines by Air
Flights viewing the lines last around 40 minutes and cost from $100 USD (low season) to $130 USD (July, August, January). One company is Aeroparacas located at Calle Lima #169, near the bus terminal. You also need to pay an airport tax of 25 soles ($9.40 USD) that they may or may not tell you about! Official website with information on the flights is located here: Aeroparacas
A Few Other Tourist Attractions in Nazca
- Museo Didáctico Antonini – an archaeological museum that contains a miniature scale of the Nazca Lines as well as information on early Nazca culture. It is located at Avenida de la Cultura #600. More information on this offical web page: Museo Didáctico Antonini
- Cantalloc Aqueducts – water from aquifers (underground bed or layer of rock containing water) was channeled to areas that needed it via underground tunnels. Around 50 tunnels were built and some are still in use today. They are also called “Puquios”, which is a Quechua word meaning ‘natural spring’.
- Marie Reiche Planetarium - located inside the Nasca Lines Hotel (Bolognesi #300) where she had a room and lived for many years, the planetarium is a one-room museum showing a film about her work and therories of the Nazca Lines and has a telescope for viewing celestial objects such as Planet Jupiter.
- Marie Reiche Museum - her former home at Km 421.3 of the Panamericana Highway has been converted into a museum and contains many photographs, maps and personal items.
If you think Huacachina is the only sandboarding option in the area (located just two hours away) you may be surprised to learn that you can not only sandboard from Nazca, you can take on the “highest known sand dune in the world” – Cerro Blanco (2070 meters/ feet). Camping and sandboarding tours are available here.
Fresh Baguettes and Deli Foods in Nazca
The farmer’s market in Nazca – Virgen de Guadalupe – covers two sides of Calle Lima street (between Jr. Arica and Calle Grau) yet has little to offer except cheap goods and some fresh veggies. In the evening there are some good places for cheap eats such as beef heart shish kababs.
A block from the market with an entrance on Calle Lima #471 (across from Nazca Hostal) is Supermercado Raulita with a bakery with french-style baguettes, deli and some prepared foods; much better place to grab yourself a snack.
Nazca Reference List
1. Mystery on the Desert – book by German mathematician Maria Reiche.
2. The story of ‘Condor’ – a hot air balloon made in 1975 by the International Explorers Society to prove that ancient Peruvians really could fly (it was a bust… lasting only a minute or so).
3. Chariots of the Gods - book by Erich Von Daniken claiming the area of the lines was an (is?) ‘extraterrestrial landing strip’. If you see any flying saucers, please email!
4. Ancient Voices: Decoding Peru’s Nazca Lines – a VHS movie available through Amazon here: Buy Movie
Name: Casa Andina Classic Nasca Book Now
Address: Jr. Bolognesi #367
Website: http://www.casa-andina.com/peru/ Just a block from Plaza de Armas, with restaurant facing the plant-filled pool area, gift shop and WiFi.
Name: Hospedaje Roma en Nasca Book Now
Address: Ignacio Morsesky #499
Website: http://hospedajeromaennasca.com/ Close to bus station and the ‘block of restaurants to check-out for dinner (see where to eat section) with pool, WiFi, cable T.V. and Italian bar with espresso-plus!
Name: Nazca Hostal
Address: Calle Lima #438
Website: None. Very inexpensive rooms without bath, plus nicer rooms in back by the garden area. Two blocks from Plaza de Armas, one block from the market, four blocks from bus terminal, grocery store across the street with great baguettets! Right next door (in the back offstreet) is a cafe with espresso and lite meals.
Much better than listing a few restaurants is to tell you the street that has the majority of places in town on it! Around 5 blocks from Plaza de Armas is the corner of Fermin del Castillo and Bolognesi streets. Start there and head down Bolognesi towards Calle Ignacio Moresky (or go the reverse).
You will have the following restaurants at your disposal: Chifa’s (Chinese food), La Choz (pizza & pastas), La Encatada Cafe (salads, soups, pasta, meat dishes as well as espresso and the best WiFi in town – open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.), La Carreta (pizza & pastas), El Griego (cheap eats, juice, sandwiches), Chifa Li Qui (more Chinese food) and Las Canas (Restaurant/Pub with big screen T.V.).
How about some cerviche? There is also Cebicheria Palomino to check out that has fresh seafood in lime juice, fried fish and chicken. Not a bad selection for only having to walk one block, eh?
Arial Photograph of monkey taken by Maria Reiche and has been released into the public domain by her family.
Photograph of Cantalloc Aquaducts is courtesy of Travel Adventures.org.