Say ‘Nazca’ and the word ‘Lines’ follows in the same breath. The archaeological mystery, thought to have been made by a pre-Inca civilization between AD 450 and 600, consists of more than 800 straight lines, 300 geometric figures and 70 animal & plant drawings. It has spoken to imagination for centuries. Who created it and why? Aliens? Are they an astronomical calendar? Since the discovery of the lines by Marie Reiche in 1940 until now (and probably years to come) the answer is unknown. Go see them yourself and you might be able to crack the code.
Seeing them from above: Flight over the Nazca Lines
The Nazca Lines spread over 500 sq km and are almost imperceptible from the ground. An overflight in a small aircraft is thus the best way to see them. The 30-minute flight gives spectacular views on the 12 best-known lines, like the hummingbird, spider and condor with 130 m (!) wingspan.
Location: Most airline companies use Maria Reiche Neuman Airport, 4 km of Nazca. Some tour operators offer free pick-up, or a taxi can bring you for no more than 6 soles from Nazca center.
Price: Prices range from 80$ to 120$, cheaper being suspicious (never put price before safety), more being overpriced. A departure tax of 20 soles per person is charged at the airport too.
Safety: Incidents in 2008, 2009 and 2010, unfortunately some of them fatal, have caused safety measures to be taken. All planes now fly with two pilots and standard procedures are taken.
Practicalities: Plan the flight in the morning to avoid to burning heat. The small aircraft banks left and right so passengers on both sides can see the lines. Needless to say it can be (oh boy, it will be) a stomach-churning experience – both Lucas and I got it bad… It’s a good idea to postpone your breakfast till after the flight 😉 You might want to consider taking medication in advance too.
Seeing them from close: Miradors
Although the flight is the most popular way to see the lines, we would recommend to see them from the miradors (lookouts) too. It gives you the chance to get close and personal with the lines and admire how they are made; dark stones were removed and piled up on either sides of the lines, exposing the lighter soil below. The Mirador gives views on three popular geoglyphs: the hand (or frog), the tree and the 180 m-long lizard. The second is Mirador Natural, a hill that offers close-up views on one of the geometric lines.
Location: The Mirador is located 30 minutes or 20 km of Nazca, next to the Panamericana Sur. You can catch any bus or colectivo heading in that direction. We took Soyuz for 3 soles per person, single trip. As Soyuz, most bus companies cluster at the west end of Calle Lima. Mirador Natural is a half-hour walk next to the Panamericana from the Mirador. Not sure if we recommend to walk though; the traffic is quite dangerous. To get back to Nazca, you can sign any bus that passes.
Price: Admission for the Mirador is 3 soles, Mirador Natural is free.