Visiting the Mysterious Nazca Lines in Peru

Peru is home to perhaps one of the world's greatest mysteries, the Nazca Lines.
Flying over the desert of Peru and looking down on the Spider Nazca Line.
Flying over the Nazca Spider geoglyph. Photo by Adriana Proaño.

One of Peru’s most sought-after travel destinations is located in the southern coastal valleys of Peru about six hours from Lima. The small colonial-style town of Nazca is home to perhaps one of the world’s greatest mysteries – a series of enormous and peculiar ancient designs made in the ground, the Nazca Lines.

These startling geoglyphs offer more questions than answers. Spread across an incredible 50 miles of high and arid plateau rock, the Nazca Lines consist of more than 800 scratched straight lines, 300 geometric figures and some truly bewildering stylized animal and plant drawings. They are covered with ferruginous sand and gravel which acquired a dark patina from weathering. Many theories have been put forward over the years and the most common one identifies the lines as having ritual astronomical functions.

The Nazca Lines, Peru vacations, Peru, Peru For LessI spy with my little eye…a monkey!

The Nazca Lines were discovered by Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejia Xesspe in 1927 who concluded that the lines were part of ancient sacred roads. The Nazca Lines, however, had never been seen from an aerial view until Paul Kosok of Long Island University flew over in his small aircraft during explorations in 1940-1941. Researchers continue discovering new Nazca Lines to this day.

The origin of the Lines continues to be disputed, but they are thought to have been created by three different waves of pre-Inca cultures: the Paracas people (900-200 BC), the Nazca civilization (200 BC – AD 600) and the Huari (AD 630). Needless to say, the Nazca Lines have kept archaeologists guessing for the past few decades. They were designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994.

The Lines can be partially viewed by climbing the Mirador, the observation tower, where travelers can observe the famous lizard, tree and hand geoglyphs. However, it is highly recommended for travelers to take a flight from either Nazca or Pisco and view the figures from above.

Nazca Lines, Peru, Peru vacations, Peru For LessWhoever created the Nazca Lines did a fine job creating this humming bird.

The town of Nazca adds another mystical side to Peru, which is understandably often overlooked by many on their trip to Peru who instead have in mind leading destinations such as Mch. Nazca, however, is a rapidly-growing town with a rich history dating back to 100 BC. The impressive pre-Inca underground aqueduct system of Cantayo is well worth visiting, providing a fascinating insight into this ancient civilization.

The Nazca Lines will continue to be a hot debate, so come and view the gigantic hummingbird, spider, monkey, lizard and other animal outlines for yourself and make up your own mind on the origins of this national treasure. Click here to begin planning your own adventure to the Nazca Lines.