Maria 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.
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 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.
- 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.