Nazca Plain

Overview

Introduction

The Nazca Lines, on the plains 240 mi/385 km southeast of Lima, can be reached either by air from Ica or by a bus ride from Lima of between six and eight hours. Upon arrival, visitors board a small plane to fly over stylized designs carved into the ground.

These enormous drawings were outlined by the Nazca people; they did it by removing large, dark-colored stones and exposing the lighter patches just below the surface. The designs depict people, fish, birds (from hummingbirds to condors) and other, more abstract figures, ranging in size from about 300 ft/90 m to several miles/kilometers in length. Because the designs can only be seen clearly from the air, the artists never saw their completed works, unless Erich von Daniken was right (his book, Chariots of the Gods, imagines ancient astronauts and landing fields).

We've heard several different stories about their origin—a different one from each guide we've encountered—so we can't say much more than that they're pre-Inca and they're fascinating. We can safely assume that they were made sometime between 900 BC and AD 630. Two of the more popular present-day theories on the meaning of the lines: first, that the lines were a giant astronomical calendar and, second, that they were used to worship water.

Note: The flightseeing plane banks this way, then that way, then this way, then that way—assuring all six passengers aboard not only a fabulous view but also an opportunity to get completely airsick. If you have a tendency toward this sort of thing, take motion-sickness medicine.

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