RealWorld Guide to the Nazca Lines
Huge geoglyphs, etched in the desert in southern Peru, Nazca Lines were discovered in the 1920s and provide one of the many enduring images of Peru. They spread across 500 square kilometres and some are over 6 miles in length, meaning the undisputed best way to see them is from the air, and leaving archaeologists baffled as to how they were created...
We still know very little about the Nazca Culture which is believed to have created the Lines, or what they were trying to achieve with these monumental works, created by turning over stones so that their brighter sides face up towards the light, but the sheer effort and skill involved is testament to their ingenuity and organisation, with huge trapezoids, animal figures and long straight lines scattered across 500 square kilometres of the arid Peruvian pampa.
Maria Reiche and the Nazca Lines
Maria Reiche, a German archaeologist who studied the Nazca Lines for over 40 years, believed that the Nazca Lines were a giant astronomical map but this theory was discredited in the late 1960s by the American astronomer, Gerald Hawkins, who had previously shown how Stonehenge has functioned as a kind of observatory. Using the same techniques he showed that there was no relation between the Nazca Lines and astronomical objects, either now or in the past. Most archaeologists now believe that the Lines were a forerunner of the Inca ‘ceque’ tradition of markers to sacred sites, as many of the lines seem to point to mountains in the Andes, which were believed to be the home of the gods who provided water (in the form of glacial rivers) to the arid lands of the coast.
The Nazca Lines have a timeless ability to captivate our imaginations, just as they must have captivated their creators. Maria Reiche, who dedicated more than 50 years of her life studying the geoglyphs said that “we will never know all the answers, that's what a good mystery is all about” but that hasn’t stopped all kinds of people coming up with theories, so why not enjoy a holiday to the Nazca Lines and come up with your own?
Flying over the Nazca Lines
There is a viewing platform by the side of the Pan-American Highway but it only allows very distorted views of a couple of the ‘animals’ so if you want to see the Nazca Lines in all their glory you really need to take a flight over the Nazca Lines. The small light aircraft operating the flights are highly manoeuvrable and the expert pilots will make sure you get those all-important photos. It’s important to say that there have been several safety scares and some terrible accidents in the past few years, but we do not and have never worked with any of the companies concerned.
As well as flights from the small town of Nazca itself, you can also take flights over the Lines from the beach resorts of Paracas and from Lima, again with highly-reputable, internationally-certified companies. Although you can fly over the Lines from Nazca's airstrip, there aren't any flights to anywhere else in the country, so the only way to Nazca is by road. High-end comfortable coaches go from Lima daily and take around 7 hours. You can also go on to Arequipa from Nazca and there is a good afternoon coach which takes 8 hours and has a steward service and onboard entertainment.