The enigmatic Nazca Lines (or Nasca Lines) are second only to Machu Picchu as the most famous archaeological site in Peru. The mysterious geoglyphs at the UNESCO World Heritage Site range from geometric shapes and swirls to a hummingbird and monkey. Theories on their purpose include astronomical markers, irrigation canals, and alien messages—an enigma that has spurred intrigue since their 1927 discovery. The spectacular etchings likely date from 500 BC and 500 AD.
There are two ways to see the Nazca Lines: from an airplane tour and from an observation tower. The tower is accessible from the Pan-American Highways and allows for views of two mysterious shapes from above: hands and a tree. Bus tours often stop here for a look at the lines, but those with more time and a bigger budget may want to book a flight. Air tours typically last 30 minutes and fly over 15 shapes, including the famous geoglyphs of a dog and an astronaut. It’s best to book in advance, as flights to this top attraction fill up quickly. Guided day trips around Nazca can include stops at local attractions including Huacachina Oasis.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Request a morning flight (before 10:30am) for best visibility.
- Book travel to Nazca Lines early, as it’s one of the top attractions in South America.
- If visiting on a cruise, look for Nazca Line shore excursion tours.
- Those flying to the site from another country may want to bring a passport and cash for the airport tax (sometimes included in tours).
- Nazca Lines flights operate from Nazca, Ica, Lima, Paracas, and Pisco, with flights from further destinations offering faster and more convenient transportation at higher prices.
How to Get There
While it’s possible to take a public bus from Lima to the high desert of southern Peru, it’s faster to get to the Nazca Lines via a 7-hour tourist shuttle. Look for tours that include round-trip transportation from Lima for convenience. If coming from Cusco, it’s best to fly to Pisco or Lima and take a shuttle from there; those coming from Arequipa can take a long bus ride to Nazca or fly to Pisco or Lima first. The Maria Reiche Neuman Airport is only used for viewing the Nazca Lines.
When to Get There
Tours of the Nazca Lines run year-round. You may get better views during the dry months, from June through August, but crowds will be smallest in early spring and fall.
The Pampa Lines
Though less famous, the Pampa de Jumana Lines are almost 1,000 years older and depict equally astonishing subjects, including people and a complex calendar created by the Parapas people. Some tours offer hour-long flights over both sites.