On your trip to Peru, you will surely have marked on the itinerary the visit to the Nazca Lines, those giant hieroglyphs drawn in the Nazca Desert, exactly between the towns of Nazca and Palpa, 450 kilometers from Lima and very close to the Pacific Ocean.
There, in the middle of the pampas of Jumana, hundreds of geometric shapes, animal, vegetable and human, between 50 and 300 meters long, are distributed over an area of more than 400 km2. In 1994, UNESCO granted them the status of World Cultural Heritage.
Since their discovery in 1547 by the Spanish conqueror Pedro Cieza de León, the history surrounding their date of creation and above all the reason why they were drawn, has been shrouded in various controversies and the odd supernatural hypothesis. Would you like to know a little more about these mysterious lines? We told you.
The Nazca lines, who drew them and how?
It was the Nazca culture, one of the cultures of ancient Peru, who, during their settlement in the area, drew these figures between 200 and 600 B.C. They did so on the plain of the pampas and removed the layer of red pebbles that covered the surface of the earth, thus revealing the yellowish layer that was hidden beneath those reddish stones. That’s why, if you look at them closely, they look like furrows dug into the ground.
Flying over the Nazca Lines
In order to make the lines as straight as possible, it seems that they used a previous layout that they marked with stakes and strings, as if it were a grid. From that pattern, they removed the reddish stones that they piled up in small mounds that can still be seen. Almost all the drawings were made in the flat area, except for a few human figures resting on the soft hills of the area. Among the animals, you can distinguish a heron, a pelican, a gull, a monkey, a spider, a snail, a giant whale, a dog, a lizard, an iguana or a snake.
The CondorThe monkeyThe astronaut
The climate of the area, one of the driest on the planet, and the geological characteristics of the soil, have made these works of art resistant to our times, although some of them are more deteriorated or affected by the urban and modern development of the country.
What is most surprising to the researchers of these lines is how they made them without having the possibility of seeing the final result, since it is impossible to observe its totality if you do not fly over the area. From the hills you can only partially see some of them, but there is no complete view of most of them if not from the heights.
Flying over the area
Why did they draw them?
This is the million dollar question that has given rise to mystery and speculation. In 1568 the mayor Luis Monzón already tried to give an answer by seeing in the Nazca lines the layout of roads, something impossible if we observe for example the animal figures, like the snail…
But it was really in the 20th century and through anthropological, scientific and archaeological studies that theories emerged about its creation as an art dedicated to the worship of the gods, calendar, astronomical map or simply an artistic manifestation of the Nazca culture.
One of the theories that most pleased the lovers of the unknown was that of the book Memories of the Future, written in 1968 by Erich von Daniken, where he claimed that it was a kind of super airport for alien ships that humanity received as if they were the same gods coming down from the sky.
The latest research seems to point to their ritual role around the need for rain in a very dry area, something defended by the religious offerings that have been found in some cavities of the hieroglyphics.
Of course the discoveries and analysis of the area does not stop, even months ago, in 2019, 140 new lines were found. The mystery continues.
How to see the Nazca Lines?
Well, if you want to contemplate the Nazca Lines in all their immensity, it’s time to get into a small plane. There are many options for tourist flights departing either from the small airport of Nazca, or from the nearby towns of Ika or Pisco. The tour will take between 30 minutes and an hour and a half, depending on which airport you depart from.
At the time we hired Peruvian Wings but there are many other companies that offer virtually the same and prices are often very similar, it’s just a matter of comparing and hiring or what suits you best. The company will take you from its office to Maria Reiche Neuman airport, from where the planes depart.
Our planeInterior of the plane
How to get to Nazca
If you are travelling from Lima you will have to reach the area first by bus or car, via the Pan-American Highway, to one of the three places from which these planes depart to the Nazca Desert. Some tour packages also include the bus from Lima and even pick up from your hotel. This already depends on how much you want to spend.
Be careful, don’t forget to take your passport with you, you’re going to an airport, so you have to pass the legal controls.
If you leave from Lima:
If you leave from Arequipa:
Flying over the Nazca Lines in one of these planes is breathtaking, especially if you are one of those who is afraid of flying. The trip is more like a ride on any fairground attraction (because of the sensations) than an airplane flight, because the plane moves a lot and your body feels every slight movement of its wings. Despite the fear, vertigo or dizziness that it can give, it is one of the most exciting activities we have ever done. Totally recommendable.
Are you ready to discover the Nazca Lines?