Nazca Lines: An Adventure in the Southern Peruvian Desert


In Peruvian desert, you can experience the myterious Nazca Lines without flying. 

Last week, I spent a few hours in the southern Peruvian desert viewing the mysterious Nazca Lines without flying. There is no denying that the flight takes you to see all the twelve main figures. But when you see it from the ground level, the lines are clear and huge. Moreover, the vast expanse of Peruvian desert provides a unique ambiance for you to observe the lines, from the height of a two-story building.

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History of Nazca Lines

For those of you who are not familiar with the Nazca Lines, it is a collection of giant ancient geoglyph in the Nazca Desert in shapes of humans, animals, and plants stretching through for 200 square miles. Those geoglyphs were believed to be created by the Nazca people between 200 BC and 600 AD. The main intriguing part of these drawing is that the geoglyphs are so large that they can only be seen from the sky, and even those who created them were probably not able to see them in full.

Nazca Lines without flying

Nazca Lines: this one represents hummingbird.

The significance of the figures remains a mystery to this day. There are several explanations as to why the Nazca Lines were built. Some suggest that the lines are a way Nazca people used to communicate with aliens as a navigation device, while some claim that the lines are the messages to the gods, or maps of underground resources.

The most popular theory of the originality of the lines comes from German mathematician and archeologist Maria Reiche. She believes that the Nazca Lines were a celestial calendar that marks times to distribute food, sowing, and harvesting. She spent 40 years in the Nazca Desert to calculate and figure out why they were created, and ended up having more questions than answers.

Nazca Lines without flying

Viewing the Nazca Lines from Mirador

I took a local bus from Soyus and paid 3 sols for a 30-minute trip to Mirador. The bus dropped me on a highway in the desert with a two-story metal staircase in front of me. From the north to south, I saw the road cutting through the vast expanse of Nazca Desert where the cars, buses, and trucks loudly passed through.

Nazca lines without flying

Mirador – a two-story building for viewing the Nazca Lines from the ground level

After I went up to the top, I quickly spot one of the main drawing in the desert on my right.  It was in the form of a tree, followed by strips from afar. They look like canals and river, so no wonder there are assumptions that the Nazca people used the lines for irrigation purposes.

Nazca Lines without flying

This is what Nazca Lines looks like from Mirador. This line is a tree.

The animal’s hands were easily spotted on the left, with four figures in one hand and five in the other. There is hardly any rain and erosion at the Nazca Desert, so many geoglyphs remain intact, and you can clearly see the outline of two main figures from Mirador.

Nazca Lines without flying

Nazca Lines from Mirador: this one represents hands

Sunset in the Nazca Desert

After viewing the lines from Mirador, I was told that the small mountains that are 1km away offer views of many Nazca lines – just lines and no geoglyphs. It was definitely interesting to see other parts of the Nazca lines, so I spent 15 minutes walking to the hills and then walked on the hills to get a wonderful view of the lines.

Nazca Lines without flying

This is the mountain I walked up to see extra lines.

But once I made it to the top of the mountain, I started forgetting the Nazca Lines underneath. I was immersed in the infinite expanse of desert, with small airplanes flying over the top and the drastic Andes mountain range providing contrasts to the flat and treeless desert plain.

Nazca Lines without flying

Sitting on the edge under the sunset, I saw the soft pink and golden light dancing rays on the Nazca desert and felt time paused; the whole world was silent and static. I could see the highway, as a narrow strip, winding through the desert and vehicles passing by, and they were far and I could not hear their roaring sound.

Nazca Lines without flying

Sunset over the Nazca Desert, Peru

There were three other travelers on the top. We sat, talked, and enjoyed the magnificent view. The night gave the Nazca Desert a bit of wind and chill, and soon we all put on a thin layer and hitchhiked back to the city.

Nazca Lines without flying

View of the Nazca Lines and the Nazca Desert under the sunset.

While a trip to the Nazca Desert only got me to see two Nazca Lines, it’s history, mysterious drawings, and vast landscape appealed more to me than the lines themselves. The people who created the lines bring our imagination back to the ancient civilization where there was no technology and devices. I will never know why the Nazca Lines were built and how the Nazca people wanted us to interpret the lines. What I do remember is they are fascinating and watching the sunset over the Nazca Desert was truly a blissful moment.

If I had a hundred lifetimes, I would have given them to Nazca. And if I had to make a thousand sacrifices, I would have made them, if for Nazca.”

Things to know before visiting the Nazca Lines

Flight or Mirador – The flight takes 30 minutes and allows you to view all 12 main lines, and my favorite drawing, the hummingbird and the astronauts, can only be viewed from the air. However, the flight is expensive ($85/person) and motion sickness is a common sight.  Mirador offers clear outlines of two figures, and the rest are lines. It is an alternative for budget travelers who choose to visit the Nazca lines without flying.

Cost – three sol entrance fee to Mirador. There are vendors in front of Mirador selling souvenirs, snacks, and water.

Be aware of the weather conditions in Nazca –  the location of the Nazca Lines is in the desert, where the weather can be very hot and dry, and there is no shelter, so make sure to have enough water.

The sunset is worth the wait – if you have extra time, go up to the mountains and stay there for the sunset. It will provide you with a different perspective of the Nazca Lines and the world. Many travelers left after viewing the lines from Mirador, so this helped me to have some space and quiet time to enjoy the fantastic view.

Be patient – the bus to the Nazca Lines takes longer than you expect, and be ready to hitchhike back to the Nazca City.

Where to stay: Nanasqa Hostel

During my trip to Nazca, I stayed at the Nanasqa Hostel that is in a quiet neighborhood and a walking distance to the downtown of Nazca City. I completely enjoyed my stay there – the volunteers are welcoming and the owner of the hostel Roy is hospital. He booked the sandboarding tour for me and took other guests and I to the Magnetico De Orcona in one afternoon for free. The hostel is a few minutes ride from the Cruz Del Sur bus station and a taxi cost no more than $4 sol.

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Julie Cao

Julie is the creator of Always On The Way. She lived in Hawaii and now resides in London (Ontario, Canada). In 2017, she went on an overland trip from Bogota Colombia to Puerto Williams, the southernmost city in the world. She believes travel is not only about visiting tourist attractions but more about getting to know the culture, people, and the place.

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