Collectively, a set of dozens of large drawings, carved into the earth 1500 years ago, and preserved by the driest place on the planet, the Lines of Nazca are still a popular travel destination in Peru, and a symbol of national pride. Theories about the origin of the lines seem to center around astronomy, as the lines have been connected to constellations, or perhaps a giant calendar. A few claim that they were a way for the Nazca people to signal extraterrestrials.
The Lines of Nazca are found throughout the desert which lies between the Peruvian cities of Ica and Nazca. Neither of the cities is accessible by commercial air, and getting there can be time consuming. Bus lines such as Cruz del Sur offer cheap passage from Lima (4 hours to Ica, and 8 to Nazca). Prices range from $15-$30 one-way.
Lodging Near the Nazca Lines
Lodging will be a major consideration on this trip. While a number of backpacker hostels are available in Nazca, nicer rooms are available in Ica, or in nearby Paracas. Paracas has a Doubletree right on the beach, with a great pool and a diverse menu of activities. Expect to pay $200/night plus the usual Hilton extras. The restaurant is convenient, but incredibly expensive.
More affordable accommodations are available at the Hosteria Suiza for about $75/night, nestled in the oasis of Huacachina near Ica, where a tiny tourist village of restaurants and shops has been built around a natural lake. Giant sand dunes tower over the area. Several companies offer Nazca line tours, dune buggy rides, and sandboarding. Several affordable ($8-$12) sources of Peruvian cuisine are within a short walk around the tiny oasis.
There are essentially two options for seeing the famous Nazca geoglyphs, depending on budget and time. A Peruvian company maintains a lookout tower a few miles north of Nazca, where three of the smaller figures can be seen for $0.75 – The Tree, The Hands, and The Lizard. A cab from Nazca to the lookout tower runs about $20, but it’s a three hour drive from Ica, so a guided tour would be advisable. For those with a bit more money to spend, a number of companies will fly over the entire valley in a small plane or helicopter, providing a view of dozens of figures. The cost per person is around $200, and the safety records of individual companies should be examined closely.
Things to Do Near Nazca
For those with more time, a boat leaves from Paracas to Islas Ballestas, where a huge herd of sea lions is joined by penguins and other ocean birds. On the way, you can see the Candelabra, a newer geoglyph that is said to point the way from the sea to the lines of Nazca.
Those more interested in archeology can visit the southern edge of Nazca, where a set of spiral aqueducts built a millennia ago still carries water to the fields.
While a bit difficult to get to, the lines of Nazca are worth a look. It is easy to fill two or three days with a variety of family fun activities and historical experiences, but in all my time here, I still haven’t seen an alien.
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