The town of Nazca, located near the southern coast of Peru, is best known for the enigmatic and baffling Nazca Lines. The region was once home to the Nazcas, a pre-Inca culture that thrived between 100BC to 750 AD. Today, it welcomes thousands of archaeologists, scientists, historians, geologists and tourists from around the world, who are attracted by the mystery of these ancient patterns.
The only way to get to Nazca is by road. There are frequent buses from Ica (2-3 hours), Lima (7-8 hours), Arequipa (10-12 hours) and Cusco (13-14 hours). If you don’t wish to spend an entire day travelling, you can opt for an overnight bus journey.
The Nazca Lines are geometric patterns and animal geoglyphs that were etched onto the desert floor centuries ago, between 200 BC and 500 AD. There are hundreds of geometric patterns and lines and around 70 diagrams of animals and plants. Why were they drawn? By who? How? Are they an indication of alien activity? No one knows. Such is the mystery surrounding these massive diagrams and it continues to puzzle mankind to date.
You are sure to hear numerous theories that offer an explanation of these mysterious lines – sacred roads, astronomical calendars, or aliens – you can have your pick. However, it is widely believed that they were created by the Nazca people, though the exact details behind them are still unknown.
You can view these diagrams either by taking an aerial plane tour or from a 13-metre high observation tower. Near the tower, you can view the diagrams of the tree, the frog (or hands) and the lizard. The plane tour would take you over the diagrams of the spider, monkey, astronaut, whale, compass and others.
Cahuachi was once the capital of Nazca culture and is today an important archaeological site, located around 25 west of Nazca town. You can stroll through the complex and view the several pyramids, graves and ceremonial structures that have been unearthed here. One of the structures called Estaquería was believed to have been the site for mummification of bodies.
The Chauchilla Cemetery, located 28 km away from Nazca town, is an interesting archaeological site. This burial site belonged to the Ica-Chincha culture that existed around 1000 AD and you will find bones, skulls, mummies and burial tombs. It was also later used by the Wari, the Poroma, and the Inca cultures.
Museo Arqueologico Antonini (Antonini Archeological Museum) has an extensive collection of Nazca artefacts including pottery, ceramics, textiles, pan flutes and even burial tombs and mummies. There are also models of the Nazca lines and glyphs. Apart from viewing these, you can also learn more about the history, geography and culture of Nazca.
Museo Maria Reiche (Maria Reiche Museum) is located in the home of the German mathematician, Dr Maria Reiche, who was dedicated to unravelling the mystery of the Nazca lines. You can find several of her diagrams, sketches and work regarding the Nazca lines on display.
The Nazca Lines are among the world’s unexplained mysteries and the very idea of massive diagrams that have remained unerased on the desert floor for centuries should compel you to visit them. Nazca is truly an interesting and unforgettable destination for any visitor and also a reminder of how little we know about the wonders of the ancient world.
Follow our blog for your daily dose of travel inspiration, information and tips. We try to publish atleast one article each day. Check this space for all the latest posts.