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Nazca Tourism Week (& María Reiche’s Birthday) Is Coming!

Nazca Tourism Week (& María Reiche’s Birthday) Is Coming!

Maria Reiche's BirthdayMaria Reiche’s birthday is coming up, this May 15th. She’s the famed Lady of the Desert, who devoted the majority of her life to the study and protection of the mysterious Nazca Lines. In celebration of this, the city of Nazca holds its tourism week around the same time, with celebrations beginning around 10 days in advance, May 5th, and lasting until the 15th. We don’t have the specific program yet, but will hopefully have the full event list, dates and times soon!

After the fall of the Ceremonial City Cahuachi around 400AD due to a series of natural disasters that foresaw the fall of their civilization, the center of Nazca civilization was based in the area on which today’s city of Nazca sits. The civilization is known above all for the enigmatic Nazca Lines which cover miles of the desert floor in geometric shapes and pictures of animals and people and can only be fully seen from the sky. Their purpose is still debated, although the most popular theories contend that they were the world´s largest astronomical calendar designed to correlate with celestial movements, please the gods, and remind them of the need to provide for the crops and harvests. The most recent theories now suggest that they were also used as ceremonial pathways for the same reason.

Tips on the Nazca Lines

  • Remember that most tours do not include the Air Tax, which at the moment is S/.25.00 (soles).
  • Flights are short, but you can also book a longer flight that also includes the nearby Palpa Lines.
  • Earlier flights are better for increased visibility. (Flights run from 7am – 4pm.)
  • Some people choose to take motion sickness pills in advance, since the pilots tilt and turn as much as possible to ensure that everyone gets good views of the ground.

(Click for info on Flights over the Nazca Lines.)

Getting to Nazca

Nazca is located about 400km south of Lima. If you’re only going to go see the Nazca Lines, try a one or two night trip departing from Lima, although a couple nights extra would allow you the opportunity to visit the Cantayoc Aqueducts, Chauchilla Cemetery, or the ruins of Cahuachi.

A view of the Pirwa Nazca Patio!

A direct bus takes about 9 hours, although you can split the trip up if you were planning on visiting Paracas Bay to see the Ballestas Islands, or Huacachina Oasis for some sandboarding, as companies such as Cruz del Sur make stops in both Ica and Paracas. You can do overnight buses or during the daytime. If you’ve stopped in Ica to visit Huacachina, small buses known as colectivos leave frequently for Nazca, the 2-3hr trip costs S/.12.00 (soles).

Overnight buses from Cuzco will take you 14 hours, and from Arequipa 9 hours, although trip times are very approximate, depending on the weather, road conditions, etc. Expect prices to range from S/.60.00-S/.180.00 (soles), and vary during high and low tourist seasons.

When looking for a place to stay, we hope that you’ll give Pirwa Nazca Backpackers a try! Not sure? Click here for an independent review of Pirwa Nazca from another travel blog….

What to Do in Nazca Aside From the Lines…

  • A visit to the Museo Arqueológico Antonini on Avenida la Cultura will give you priceless insight into the Nazca people, teaching about the archeological sites and the Nazca Lines, the system of aqueducts that they created, the detailed polychrome ceramics for which they are famed, their mummies and their skilled textile work.
  • The Cantayoc Aqueducts is an impressive underground irrigation system unlike any you’ve seen, that managed to bring life to this arid landscape. After a thousand years, some are still in use today! (Tour Info on the Cantayoc Aqueducts)
  • At Chauchilla Cemetery you can observe incredibly well-preserved mummies and artifacts including deformed skulls and ‘trophy heads’ more than a thousand years old. (Tour Info on Chauchilla Cemetery)
  • The Cahuachi Archeological Site 20min from Nazca was once a ceremonial and pilgrimage center, the Nazca’s most important city. Stop by to see the adobe pyramids and temples, which are still being excavated to this day.
Dancing to a New Rhythm at the Cañete Afro-Peruvian Festival!

Dancing to a New Rhythm at the Cañete Afro-Peruvian Festival!

Cañete DancersThe fertile Cañete River Valley was once known as the Huarco (Hanging) Valley due to the predilection of its people to mete out this punishment to enemies and rebellious tribes. The Spanish christened it Villa Santa María de Cañete and imported the first black slaves to attend to agricultural tasks. The cultural adaptations the slaves made while trying to preserve their collective heritage in a new environment transformed the Cañete Valley into an enclave of rich Afro-Peruvian culture. It is the premier producer of one of the most famous products of Peru, the white-grape Pisco brandy, as well as wine and another grape-based liquor known as Cachina. It´s popular for its gastronomy, which includes rice with duck, carapulcra (a dish of stewed dried potatoes), beans stewed in a tomato sauce, and spicy stewed shrimp, with candied medlar (loquat) for dessert.

Today the valley is Playing the Cajónconsidered the cradle and capital of Afro-Peruvian Art. August is Afro-Peruvian Arts Month, and on Aug 12th the National Festival of Afro-Peruvian Art takes place in the valley´s capital, San Vicente de Cañete (often shortened to Cañete). The city is located about 89mi south of Lima. Parade floats each have dance teams representing different neighborhoods and institutions moving to their own beat and that of the street bands. The festival coincides with Cañete Tourist Week, meaning that the party will continue for days. This is the best time to enjoy the unique dance, music, and cuisine of the Cañete Valley. The best examples of Afro-Peruvian cultural expression will be honored at an awards ceremony later in the day, followed by a festive all-star concert where attendees and performers all celebrate together.

While you´re there …

Rafting in LunahuanáThe towns of Cañete and nearby Lunahuaná boast some of Peru´s best wineries, making them a must for Pisco lovers. If a vineyard tour and wine-tasting is too subdued for you, Lunahuaná is also popular for rafting or kayaking class II-IV rapids along the Cañete River as well as other adventure sports.

Incahuasi Archeological Complex

Ruins at IncahuasiAfter 4 years of stubborn resistence, the powerful chiefdom of Huarco was conquered by Inca Túpac Yuapanqui, who had the city of Incahuasi (House of the Inca) built in the image of Cusco, as he Incahuasi to be of primary importance in the region. The Incahuasi ruins comprise storehouses, some palace wall remnants, columns from the sun temple, and a fortress as well as some ruins of the city proper, such as the main square, the center for executions and artistic expression.

Castle of Unánue

Unanue CastleIn the countryside, rises the 19th century Castle Unanue, which was bought in Bavaria and transported in pieces over the ocean to be rebuilt along the shores of Cañete River over a period of 60 years, at a cost of a thousand golden pesos (today a million dollars). With agrarian reform came sacking and obscurity for Castle Unanue, whose European gardens dried up and whose peacocks and other birds disappeared along with the tortoises and colorful fish. The 2007 quake substantially damaged the castle, leaving the minarets in ruins and cracking the structure up to the embrasures. Regardless, the flamboyant style of Castle Unanue is unique in South America and still dazzles despite its state of disrepair.

Other popular attractions include the modern dance clubs and seaside resorts of Asia District, the old fisherman´s cove turned surfing mecca of Cerro Azul, and the protected Forest Reserve adjacent to the mouth of the Nuevo Imperial Canal.

Qoyllur Rit’i- Lord of the Snow Shine

Qoyllur Rit’i- Lord of the Snow Shine

A History Full of Legend…

Every year in Cusco´s Sinakara Valley there is an event like no other- Qoyllur Rit’i, the greatest indigenous pilgrimage in this hemisphere.  More than 10,000 pilgrims hike the icy Ausangate, an ancient site of pilgrimage since pre-Columbian times and sacred site linked with the fertility of the land.  The snowy Apu (Andean mountain deity), was thought to appear to peasants as a boy with white skin.  The pilgrimage always happens around the time of the solstice, probably due to the pan-Andean fascination with the Pleiades constellation.

Christianity arrived to the sacred rock in the 1780s, when religious authorities ordered the painting of an image of a crucified Christ on the rock to give the site a Christian veil. This image became known as Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i (Lord of the Snow Shine).  Legend now says that in 1780 a strange mestizo boy befriended an Indian boy on the Ausangate snow fields.  The boy appeared emanating an intense white light.  When Church officials tried to apprehend him, the boy transformed into a bush with the body of an agonizing Christ hanging from it.  His Indian friend fell dead from grief and was buried under the stone where Christ had last appeared.

The Festival

This year´s pilgrimage begins on June 12th with a hike to the Sanctuary Shrine, passing 14 crosses over sheets of snow.  Delegatio ns from Quechua and Aymara communities arrive carrying religious images to the Sanct uary.  Individual pilgrims participate as well as large troupes of dancers and musicians.  Pilgr ims pass the night inside the temple, warming themselves in the heat from thousands of candles offered by the devout in order to offset the glacial cold outside.  Locals believe that those who attempt the Qoyllur Rit’i pilgrimage without faith will meet their deaths.

The numerous dance performances, processions, and Catholic masses are punctuated by some unique activities:

  • There´s the Alabacitas market, where miniature goods are bought and sold with Qoyllur Rit´i currency according to real-life wishes.
  • In the Burning of the Castles wooden constructions built with fireworks are set alight.
  • In the “Game of Little Houses”, pilgrims construct miniature building a few inches in height in order to ask the Lord of Qoyllur Rit’i for real-life property.  Some merely draw their wishes: a home, a child.
  • You´ll see lots of costumed characters from Quechua mythology throughout the event.  One of these, the ukukus, have the task of retrieving crosses and block of glacial ice for use as for use as holy water in the year to come and for symbolic irrigation of their land.

After the Blessing Mass there´s a “24-hour” procession passing Calvario Machacruz, the Kumukasa lagoons and Alqamarina sectors en route to Yanacocha (approx. a 6 hour hike).  After a 3-4 hour nap the Night Hike to Tayancani begins, with the Sun Greeting Ceremony en route.  At Tayancani there will be a blessing to the Sanctuary and village.

Tips for Travelers

  • Soroche (Altitude Sickness) can cause fainting- if you´re concerned about the altitude buy one of the mini-oxygen tanks available in Cusco´s pharmacies.  (Don´t worry, they´re bottle-sized.)
  • Surusppi, irritation of the eyes by the reflection of the sun on the snow, is also a problem.  Bring some good sunglasses to be on the safe side.
  • Prepare for COLD- good jackets, thermal underwear, and a below-20 sleeping bag
  • The main ceremony is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate, at 4,700m, where temperatures often plunge below freezing.