When most people think of Peru, they imagine hiking the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu, but those aren’t the only sights Peru has to offer tourists.
One of the highlights from my trip to Peru was flying over the Nazca Linas (the Nazca Lines).
This desert site was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994. The lines are large geoglyphs in the Peruvian desert, ranging in complexity from straight lines and triangles to complex figures. While no one knows the creators or the purpose of these lines, their location in the arid desert ensures that they will live on for many years to come. Although you can see some of the lines from local miradors (lookouts), the only way to see the most of the lines is by plane. Walking or driving in the area is forbidden as that would ruin the lines. Due to the dry climate of the desert, which helps to preserve the lines, the tire tracks of their modern discoverers can still be seen. There are hundreds of lines and figures drawn in an area covering over 500 square kilometers. The flights last from half an hour, to an hour and a half, and usually highlight 13 of the most famous figures. Although flights can be expensive, these ancient lines in the desert are truly a mystery not to be missed.
When to Go:
Scenic flights run all year, but it’s a good idea to book them at least a few days in advance. Generally flights only leave in the morning or early afternoon, weather permitting. If you’re arranging your flight yourself, allow for extra time between your flight and your next activity in case of delays due to foggy or cloudy conditions. Expect to pay more and have less availability during the high season of May through August.
How to Get There:
Most tour companies will provide transportation for you to the city of Nazca (often written as Nasca) as part of your tour in Peru. There is no commercial airport in Nazca so if you don’t do a tour, you will need to drive yourself or take a local bus to get there. There are several hotels and hostels in the town and many people spend the night there before their flight to avoid a very early start.
If planes aren’t for you but you still want to get a glimpse of the lines, you can head to the 2 miradors on the Panamericana highway, located 20 and 25 kilometers north of Nazca. You can only see lines from the hilltop of the first mirador and you can see 2-3 of the figures from the tower at the second mirador, but as the admission fee is only a few dollars at each, it is a more budget-friendly option. If you don’t have a car you can take a taxi to the miradors, or a less expensive option, just hop on any local bus heading north to the town of Ica. Just make sure to tell the driver you want to get off at the miradors. The miradors are about 5 kilometers apart so if you want to see both you can either flag down another bus, or walk to the second one. After your visit, you can just flag down any bus heading back to Nazca: just look for “Nazca” on the front of the bus. If you would prefer a guided version, you can check out Mystery Peru’s land tour option (website link below).
What to Bring:
Your camera is a necessity! Make sure you have charged your battery and have enough room on your memory card to ensure you have lasting memories of the flight! Don’t forget you’re flying on an airline so you will need to bring your passport. You should also bring a jacket, even in the summer, the small planes can get chilly. If you’re traveling with your luggage, ask where you can store it at the airport as there’s not going to be room for it on the plane.
Tourist Tip: Don’t worry about missing the view, the plane makes 2 passes over each image, so you have time to look, as well as take pictures from both side of the plane.
Booking Your Tour:
The flights out of Nazca are usually small 6 seater airplanes; if you are not comfortable on really small planes make sure you confirm the size with the airline/tour company ahead of time. You can also look into booking a flight out of Pisco which usually flies 12-seater Cessnas. If you often experience motion sickness, I would avoid breakfast and take some motion sickness medication, as the small planes can often be a bumpy ride.
A couple of book-it-yourself or local tour options:
For more photos of the Nazca Linas check out our Facebook Album.
Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail
If you’re planning on visiting the Atacama Desert in Chile they also have geoglyphs there.
View Nazca Linas in a larger map
Note: This story was accurate when published. Please be sure to confirm all details directly with the sites in question before planning your trip.
To learn more about Beth, read her bio!