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Nazca TRAVEL GUIDE

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About the Nazca Lines

The greatest concentration of figures, and trapezoids collectively known as the Nazca Lines are located on the plains of San José, 440 kilometers to the south of Lima in the Ingenio valley, and many others in the vicinity of Pampa (north of Nazca).

In 1926 the first archaeological research was published regarding these lines, which until then had been known as “Inca highways”. It was not until 1941, however, that the lines became famous when the American academic Paul Kosok made it known to the world as “the largest astronomical calendar in the world”. Today, despite there are many other theories that have attempted to explain the meaning of the Nazca Lines, almost all of them have contributed important information to their study.

Maria Reiche, a German mathematician and governess, who met her by chance in Lima, was asked by Kosok to begin a detailed study of the lines. She went on to become the most dedicated student of the mysterious Nazca lines and discovered many new figures and lines which she then worked to conserve.

By carbon dating the organic objects found close there, it has been established that although most of the geoglyphs correspond to the period 800 BC to 300 AD, some of the figures were produced before that period, while others appeared at a later date.

Now, you can overfly the Nazca Lines to appreciate better these giant geoglyphs. The flights last around 1 hour. Or you can go to the local and free-look viewpoint located on one side of the Nazca lines, crossing a highway.

Peru Nazca Map
  • Overfly the Nazca Lines in light aircraft, with all security certifications and experienced pilots for 1 hour approx.
  • Nazca pointview. The place has a pointview where the visitors can appreciate the extension of the Nazca figures totally free.
  • The cemetery of Chauchilla is a necropolis belonging to the pre-Inca Nazca culture which contains fragments of ceramics, textiles as well as mummies.
  • The Cantalloc aqueducts are built in the middle of the desert, near the Nazca lines by the pre-Inca culture of the same name, and are a feat of hydraulic engineering.
  • The Cahuachi Pyramids are another engineering feat of the Nazca culture. This was a ceremonial center built between 1 and 500 AD.

Best Nazca tours for 2024 & 2025

Overfly the mysterious Nazca Lines heading to Cusco
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8 Days / 7 Nights

Lima, Ica, Paracas, Nazca, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu

Overfly the mysterious Nazca Lines heading to Cusco

History

In the department of Ica, to the south of the city of the same name and at the site of the present-day town of Nazca, in the valleys formed by the Grande, Ingenio and Nazca rivers, an important pre-Inca culture developed between 100 AD and 600 AD, which has come to be known as Nazca.
This culture became famous after the discovery of the so-called Nazca Lines, but it also produced some of the most beautiful pottery and textiles of ancient Peru, as well as producing work using exotic feathers, subterranean aqueducts and macabre trophy heads.
The Nazca people erected a series of buildings and pyramids (more than 30 in the vicinity of Cahuachi) based on elaborate construction techniques. They employed conical, earthquake resistant mud bricks. Theirs was a theocratic society influenced by neighboring civilizations such as Paracas. They were eventually subjugated by the Wari culture of the southern Andes, and this led to modifications in the aesthetic patterns of their pottery and textiles.
The decline and subsequent disappearance was probably due to the constant droughts caused by the El Niño phenomenon which affected the Peruvian coast, as well as invasions and conflicts with other ethnic groups.

Trophy Heads

Trophy Heads

The Nazca people adopted the custom of decapitating their enemies and mummifying their heads. They would sew the lips together with thorns and the hang the heads from their waists in order to benefit from the valor and strength of their deceased enemies.

Textiles

Nazca culture textiles

Nazca culture textiles are among the finest and most elaborate of ancient Peru and were produced using a number of techniques and an evolution in styles (experts have identified as many as five distinct styles). Initially, they resembled the textiles of Paracas Necropolis, until the introduction of three-dimensional needle-work. The Nazca people then developed embroidery, producing “projecting” images. Subsequently, their iconography became more stylized, with the inclusion of mythical beings and geometric designs. This technique is fascinating, for in the same piece the observer can distinguish varying groups of figures depending on the direction from which the textile is looked at. Later designs became increasingly more abstract and geometric until finally the Nasca people were defeated by the Wari culture (700 AD), after which new techniques such as patchwork and batik emerged.

Feather Art

Feather Art

The pieces are made from colorful woven feathers arranged in abstract designs and depictions of mythological figures. The items made from feathers were considered sacred. Birds were associated with the gods and clothing made from feathers could only be worn by high-ranking religious and political leaders. They are very beautiful and delicate, whit their abstract designs and deep colors. They were manufactured during the final phase of this culture and then during the period of Wari influence.

Geography

Nazca is located on the Peruvian

The city of Nazca is located on the Peruvian plains 450 kilometers or 280 miles south of Lima. Located on a narrow strip of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes mountains the plain is one of the driest parts of the world, with only 4mm of rain per year.
The El Niño system and the Humboldt Current are key elements in the climate of the region. Currents from the Antarctica cool the temperatures in the area.

Elevation

Nazca sits at an elevation of 520 meters or 1700 feet above sea level. The deserts is flat until it connects with the beginning of the Andes Mountains 20 km or 12 miles from Nazca is located Cerro Blanca the world´s tallest sand dune at 2078 meters or 6820 feet.

Climate

The Nazca and Ica regions of Peru have high temperatures and a dry climate. Rainfall is nonexistent through the year except for January and February where around 4mm falls for both months.

Attractions

Nazca Lines

Nazca Lines

The best-known lines are found in the desert 20km north of Nazca. By far the best way to appreciate them is to get a bird´s-eye view from a sobrevuelo (overflight). For more on the lines and their possible meaning.
Flights are taken in light aircraft (three to nine seats) in the morning and early afternoon. The standard 30-minute overflight starts at about US $80. Many agencies also offer combination flights that include a visit to the glyphs in the nearby community of Palpa. These take an hour or more and are more expensive. Tour packages generally include transportation to the aerodrome, about 4 km.

Mirador

Mirador

This metal lookout tower is on the Pan-American Hwy, about 20 km north of Nazca. Has an oblique view of three of the figures: the lizard, tree and hands (or frog). If you decide to walk around the desert here, note the signs warning of landmines. These are a reminder that walking on the lines is strictly forbidden: It irreparably damages them.

Museo Maria Reiche

Museo Maria Reiche

When Maria Reiche, the German mathematician and long-term researcher of the Nazca Lines, died in 1998, her house, which stands another 5 km north along Carr Panamericana Sur, was made into a small museum. Though it provides scant information, you can see where she lived, amid the clutter of her tools and sketches, and pay your respects at her tomb.

Museo Didáctico Antonini

Museo Didáctico Antonini

On the east side of town, this excellent archaeological museum has an aqueduct running through the back garden, as well as interesting reproductions of burial tombs, a valuable collection of ceramic pan flutes and a scale model of the Lines. You can get an overview of both the Nazca Culture and a glimpse of most of Nazca´s outlying sites here.

Maria Reiche

Maria Reiche

This small planetarium in the Nazca Lines Hotel offers scripted evening lectures on the Lines with graphical displays on a domed projection screen Call ahead or check the posted schedule. These last about 45 minutes.

Chauchilla Cemetery

Chauchilla Cemetery

The most popular excursion from Nazca, this cemetery, 30km south of the city, will satisfy any urges you have to see mummies. Dating back to the Inca-Chincha culture, around AD 1000, the mummies were, until recently, scattered haphazardly across the desert, left by ransacking tomb robbers. Now they are seen carefully rearranged inside a dozen or so tombs.

Cahuachi

Cahuachi

A dirt road travels 25 km west from Nazca to Cahuachi, the most important known Nazca center, which is still undergoing excavation. It consists of several pyramids. A graveyard and an enigmatic site called Estaquería, which may have been used as a place of mummification.

Cerro Blanco

Cerro Blanco

Cerro Blanco is the highest sand dune in the world. It resides 2078m above sea level and – more importantly – stands 1176m from base to summit, higher than the tallest mountain in England. Trips leave from Nazca at about 4 a.m. to avoid the intense heat. The arduous climb to the top of the dune (buggies can´t climb this behemoth) takes approximately three hours. Going down is counted more in minutes.

Los Paredones

Los Paredones

Once an Inca trade center where the wool from the mountains was exchanged for cotton grown along the coast, los Paredones can be reached easily on foot from Nasca Town. Simply follow Calle Arica from the Plaza de Armas, cross the bridge, and keep going straight (off the main road which curves to the right). At the end you reach a road that passes below the ruins, following the same route to Puquio as the Inca road from Nazca to Cusco, at the foot of a sandy hillside.
The adobe buildings at Los Paredones are in a bad state of repair and the site is dotted with huaquero´s (grave robbers) pits, but if you follow the path to the prominent central sector you can get a good idea of what the town must have been like. Overlooking the valley and roads, it´s in a commanding position – a fact recognized and taken advantage of by local cultures long before the Incas arrived. At the foot of the ruins, you can usually look round a collection of funereal pieces collected and displayed by the Pomez family in their adobe home adjacent to the site.

Activities

Fly over the Nazca Lines

Fly over the Nazca Lines

The only way to appreciate the full scale of the Nazca Lines is to get an aerial view in a small, low-flying plane. The usual route provides views of approximately 14 figures, including the whale, the monkey, the dog, the hummingbird, the spider and the so-called astronaut. Hiring in advance (and with an additional cost), flight operators can extend the flight time to also soar over the Palpa Lines which include 14 additional figures. Flights depart from airports in Pisco, Ica, and Nazca.

Do not like the thought of flying, see the Nazca lines from the ground

Do not like the thought of flying, see the Nazca lines from the ground

If you do not like flying then there are other options to see the Nazca lines without having to enter a small aircraft. On your visit to Nazca, there is much to see and learn about the ancient Nazca civilization. Just outside of Nazca on the Panamericana high, there is an observation tower where you can view the spider, the hands and the condor figures.

Sandboard Cerro Blanco

Sandboard Cerro Blanco

Cerro Blanco the world’s tallest sand dune at an elevation of 2078 meters or 6820 feet, will give the action junkies among you the fix that you need. The dune buggies are unable to reach to top so you will have to walk 3 hours to reach to top with sandboard in tow, but it is said that it is worth the hike as the descent with the views are incredible.

Eating

Eating Nazca offers more variety than you might imagine given the town´s small size. Most places are in or around Jirón Bolognesi and Jirón Lima, where, for vegetarians, there are a number of pizza, pasta and snack places worth trying out. There´s also a small market on Jr Lima, opposite the Banco de la Nación as well as the Panificadora La Esperanza bakery at Jr Bolognesi 389.

La Ballena Azul

La Ballena Azul Considering there's no ocean in sight, this a surprisingly decent cevicheria, serving up very tasty seafood; popular as a lunch venue for local business people.

Grumpy's Snack Bar

Jr Grau and Jr Callao 698. All earthen floor and bamboo walls, this litle establishment serves cool drinks and breakfast in a friendly atmosphere; they also serve sandwiches, cakes and other snacks.

Restaurant Los Angeles

Bolognesi 266. A very nice family-run with a wide range of freshly cooked foods, from burgers and omelettes to pizza, French fries and more traditional Peruvian food like lomo saltado.

Restaurant La Carreta

Bolognesi 270. Decent food reasonable pisco sours; this restaurant dedicates much of its sevice to the ñarge groups of tourist who hurtke throught Nasca every day; there are great cakes and coffe as well as a la carte menus. They have live music al fiesta times and often host discos at weekends.

Restaurant Don Hono

C Arica 251. Opposite the Restaurant Plaza Mayor, by the plaza de Armas, this place is small and relatively inexpensive, with excellent local, national and international cuisine. With the kitchen nears the tables, you can have a glimpse of chef preparing your meat.

Drinking

What little nightlife exists is mainly based around restaurants and bars, particularly on Jr Lima, Plaza de Armas and Jr Bolognesi. For an alcohol fix try the Licoria liquor store at C Arica 401.

Bar Natisca

Jr Bolognesi 484. A small but lively bar which pays a mix of modern music (reggae, salsa, rock) and serves a variety of snacks and bar food; a good place to meet other travellers as a well as local young people.

Bar Restaurant El Griego

Jr Bolognesi 287. A friendly local eating-house with fine food and decent drinks at reasonable prices. Good breakfast and can be fun in the evening when in functions less a as a restaurant and more as a bar.

La Taberna

Jr Lima 321. Serves a good selection of local and international dishes, plus a variety of drinks; its walls are covered with graffiti scrawled over the years by passing groups of travellers. Live folk music plays until around midnight most evenings.

Weather

weather nazca lines

The summer months are from November to March and the weather is dry, sunny and hot. Days go from around 15 to 32 C or 58 to 88 F. The winter months are June to August, the coastal fog keeps temperatures down in the cooler months with the average day being 8 to 25C or 46 to 77 F.

What to bring to Nazca, bring light clothing for the hot days and a light jacket and pants for the cooler months. Always remember to use sunscreen.

Travel Tips

Getting in

Nazca airport is only used for flights over the Nazca lines and not for flights from other Peruvian cities.

If you are short on time, travel from Lima to Pisco and take the flight over the lines from Pisco airport and return to Lima the same day.

If you have a few days to spare then take the bus from Lima or Arequipa to Nazca. IF you are traveling from Nazca there are a few bus companies that will get you to Arequipa (9 hours), Lima (7 hours) and even Cusco (14 hours). The bus company Peru Hop offers hop on hop off services to all the major destination in Peru.

If you want to travel to and from Ica there are small buses that depart from Nazca regularly, the trip is around 2 hours.

Getting around

Being such a small town, most hotels are walking distance from the main plaza. In case you need a taxi, the fare will be around 3 soles, but remember to get the price before you enter the taxi.

Health

  • Remember to stay hydrated; Nazca is in the dry hot desert, drinking plenty of fresh bottled water all day will help you with this.
  • If you plan to do the flight over the Nazca Lines, you may experience motion sickness. Being in small aircraft with lots of turbulence and sharp turns with will affect the stomach somewhat. Try and not have breakfast before your flight and drink only water. If you have a reaction to motion sickness, you may want to reconsider the Nazca Lines flight and visit the observation tower.

Safety

The Nazca and Ica regions are not dangerous for travelers. However, take the normal safety precautions with your valuables. Take extra care at bus stations and be careful not to be caught paying high prices locally for tours or with people that approach you in the bus station.

Best time to visit Nazca

There really is not a best time to visit Nazca, as the city is known as the city of eternal summer. The reason for this is the great climate all year round. High tourist season is December to March when flight operate from 7am to 4pm daily. One tip for your flight is that the turbulence is lower in the morning.