by Kaitlin Nunn,
Love archeology? Love mystery? Love flying above a barren desert floor in search of ancient geoglyphs in the shape of hummingbirds, spiders, and monkeys? Then a trip to the Nazca Lines in southern Peru sounds like the perfect add-on to your next South America tour vacation.
The ancient Nazca Lines are a collection of geometrical lines and figures that were drawn into the desert floor in southern Peru over a millenia ago. The ancient Nazca people drew these lines, which stretch several kilometers in length, and also built underground aqueducts, temples, and villages. Many theories have sprung up around the purpose of the Nazca Lines, some theories more convincing than others, but most scholars believe the lines were created for religious or astrological purposes. A National Geographic article suggests that the Nazca people were water-worshippers, and that the lines were built in celebration of water deities.
The Nazca Lines are still somewhat shrouded in mystery, which seems to contribute to their fame and allure. On a Peru tour, you can travel to the small city of Nazca, about a day’s drive from Lima, and explore the Nazca ruins and the lines themselves. Spend the night in a Nazca hotel, then get up early and take a short, 30-minute overflight to see the best of the Nazca Lines. Peer out over the dry desert landscape and see the famous figures of a hummingbird, lizard, spider, monkey, and more.
After your Nazca flight, if you still want to see some more Nazca Lines – this time a bit more up close and personal – head over to the Nazca Lines Mirador on the Pan-Americana highway. The Mirador looks out over a couple of the Lines. If you go just before sunset, you’ll get magnificent views.
While you’re in the area, make sure to check out the Maria Reiche Observatory at the Hotel Nazca Lines. The hotel once housed the famous archeologist Maria Reiche, who spent much of her life dedicated to understanding the Nazca Lines. You’ll hear a lecture about the researcher, get a great overview of the Nazca Lines – including the discovery of the lines in the early 20th century, and scope out some of the stars and planets in the southern hemisphere.
Also check out the Chauchilla cemetery, which lies just outside of town. The cemetery allows visitors to see the burial traditions of the ancient pre-Inca culture. Many skeletons are well-preserved, including long dreds of hair. The graves were robbed over the centuries, but there is still plenty to see, and there are informative guides on site to help you make sense of it all.
You’ll also want to visit the Nazca aqueducts, which are located right beside a farm and cactus field that are irrigated by the aqueducts. These water systems feature a spiral pattern that make it easy to access water several feet below ground. These aqueducts have been in continual use for centuries.