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Nazca

Destination Nazca

The greatest concentration of lines, 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, although there are 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 announced his “discovery” to the world, describing it as “the largest astronomical calendar in the world”.
By carbon dating the organic objects found on the Nazca plains, 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.
Maria Reiche, the German mathematician and governess, who met Paul kosok 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 plains and their mysterious lines and discovered many new figures and lines which she then worked to conserve.
Many theories have attempted to explain the meaning of the Nazca Lines and almost all of them have contributed important information to their study.

Choose your Nazca Tour

Peru Magic

12 days / 11 nights

Lima, Ica, Paracas, Nazca, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Puno, Lake Titicaca, Cusco, Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu

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

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.

Trophy Heads 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.

nazca culture Textiles

Feather Art

The pieces are made from colorful woven feathers arranged in abstract designs and depiction 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.

Feather Art nazca culture

Geography


Nazca city is situated on the Peruvian coastal plain 450 kilometers (280 miles) south of Lima. This narrow strip of land sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and Andes Mountains is one of the driest areas in the world, receiving only 4mm of precipitation annually.
The Humboldt Current and the El Niño Oscillation System are key elements in the region’s geography and climate. Flowing up the Pacific coast from Antarctica, the cold water current cools air temperatures. This prevents accumulation of moisture and results in minimal rainfall.

nazca Geography

Elevation

The city of Nazca sits at an elevation of 520 meters (1,700 feet) above sea level. The surrounding desert is fairly flat until it meets the western ridges of the Andes Mountains.
About 20 km (12 mi) east of Nazca city, Cerro Blanco reaches an elevation of 2,078 meters (6,820 feet) and is the world’s tallest sand dune.

Climate

High temperatures and extreme aridity characterize Nazca and the Ica region. Rainfall is almost nonexistent throughout the year, except in January and February.

Attractions


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 nines 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.

Nazca Lines

Mirador

This metal lookout tower ton 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.

Mirador nazca

Museo Maria Reiche

When Maria Reiche, the German mathematician and long-term research 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 Maria Reiche nazca

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.

Museo Didáctico Antonini nazca

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.

Maria Reiche planetarium

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.

Chauchilla Cemetery nazca

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.

Cahuachi nazca

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 4am 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.

Cerro Blanco nazca

Los Paredones

Once an Inca trade center where 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 which 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.

Los Paredones nazca

Activities


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.

Fly over the Nazca Lines

Prefer to stay grounded? See the Nazca Lines without a flight

If the thought of sharp turns aboard a small plane makes your stomach flip, worry not, you have more options to see the Nazca Lines without flying. You do need to allocate more time to travel to Nazca city, but there’s really no better place to satisfy your curiosity about one of Peru’s most enigmatic civilizations. On the Panamericana Highway, climb the Nazca Lines Observation Tower to see figures including the spider, the hands, and the condor. Keep reading for more to see and do in and around Nazca city.

See the Nazca Lines without a flight

Sandboard Cerro Blanco

At 2,078 meters (6,820 feet) of elevation, Cerro Blanco (White Hill) is the world’s tallest sand dune and is certain to fill your need for speed. Dune buggies can’t get to the top. You have to walk yourself and your board 22 kilometers (3 hours) to the summit. The last hour on soft sand is especially tough, but the payoff is an incredible kilometer-long descent paired with astounding views of the desert landscape.

Sandboard Cerro Blanco

Hotels



The following are our top choices for hotels in Nazca.

Majoro Hotel

Address: Panamericana Sur, Vista Alegre at Km 453, Nazca.

The Hotel Majoro is located just nearby to the mysterious Nazca Lines. Furthermore, the Cahuachi, the largest adobe city in Peru is situated at 20km away; the Chauchilla, the Nazca necropolis is at 40 km away, and the San Fernando reserve situated a few minutes by car from the Majoro Hotel.
The Majoro Hotel is a fine example of the ancient history of the Nazca region in Peru. The Hotel Majoro is a great place to transcend into another state of mind. Its construction dates back to the late 17th century and through time have been developed with new characteristics.


majoro hotel

Casa Andina Nazca

Address: Bolognesi Street #367, Nazca.

Considered as one of the best hotels in the area and also one of the most welcoming ones, the Casa Andina Classic Nazca is a beautiful and modern 3-star hotel with rustic touches to match Nazca desert environment. The hotel is built around an open-air courtyard lined with leafy palm trees and lush greenery. It features an elegant restaurant overlooks the refreshing swimming pool, comfortable patio teeming with colorful flowers, and a sophisticated bar where its guests can enjoy a locally-inspired cocktail. Breakfast buffet is complimentary for all guests. In the evenings, a dinner buffet offers numerous choices of delicious Peruvian dishes presented in terracotta pots and weaved baskets.


casa andina nazca

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


Summer is from November to March. Days are dry, sunny and hot. Highs can reach 30-31 C (85-88 F) during the day and lows are between 15-17 C (58-62 F).

Winter is from June to August. Coastal fog keep temperatures down, but even through a layer of cloud cover, the tropical sunlight is intense. July is the coldest month of the year. Expect highs around 25 C (77 F) and lows around 8 C (46 F).

What to pack for a Nazca tour: Bring lightweight, breathable clothes for hot days, and a light jacket and pants for the cooler evenings in the winter. Remember to wear sunscreen and reapply often.

weather nazca

Travel Tips


Getting in

Nazca Airport: Aerodromo Maria Reiche Neuman is used mainly for Nazca Lines flights.

To save time, many travelers choose to drive from Lima to Pisco (237 km, or 150 mi) and fly out from the Pisco airport with a return to Lima the same day or with an overnight in Paracas for a Ballestas tour the next morning. Additional flights are available at the airport in Ica city.

Bus: Nazca does not yet have a central bus terminal. Many bus companies have their offices in the northwest part of town, near the roundabout 6-7 blocks from the Nazca’s Plaza de Armas.

Overnight buses connect to Cusco (14 hours), Arequipa (9 hours), and Lima (via Paracas and Ica) (6-8 hours). Peru Hop is a bus company geared to travelers and offers hop on hop off service to major destinations in southern Peru (between Lima to Cusco) and includes a stop at the Nazca viewing tower.

For travel between Ica and Nazca, small buses (colectivos in Spanish) depart regularly throughout the day and the trip is 2-3 hours.

Getting around

Nazca is a small town. The Plaza de Armas is walking distance from most hotels. If you need a taxi from one end of town to the other, the fare should be about 3 soles. But be sure to negotiate beforehand.

Health

  • Stay hydrated: Nazca is in the desert. Remember to drink water throughout the day.
  • Motion sickness is a big factor for Nazca Lines flights due to turbulence and sharp turns. Small aircraft of varying sizes carry anywhere from 2 passengers to 12 passengers. Pilots tend to make hard maneuvers and circle around glyphs so that passengers on each side can get a good look. Travelers with mild sensitivity to motion are usually fine after taking Dramamine or similar medication. Those with severe sensitivity should consider skipping this tour.

Safety

Nazca and the Ica region are fairly safe for travelers. Take normal precautions with your belongings. The biggest “threats” are the touts in front of the bus station who are always looking to arrange hotels and tours at exorbitant prices. It’s best not to deal with them at all.

Best time to visit Nazca

In Peru, Nazca is known as the “city of eternal summer.” As such, it’s a year round destination for travelers intent on getting a first hand glimpse of the enigmatic Nazca Lines. High season is from December to March (summer in the southern hemisphere).

Flights over the Nazca Lines operate from 7 am to 4 pm daily. Usually, visibility is better and turbulence is lower in the morning.