Sightseeing in Peru: what are the Nazca lines?

Nazca – through space and time

How many secrets in the world – can not count. And if several mysteries concentrated in one place, for example, in the south-central part of Peru, what would you get? You get a cold, windy plateau, to whose share fell the lucky star to surprise the world, to glorify his name and make more than one generation of researchers to puzzle over one of the greatest mysteries of mankind. Its name is Nazca.

The short, sonorous name stuck in my memory in the distant ’70s, after watching a popular science film “Memories of the Future”, an adaptation of a book by the Swiss ufologist Erich von Doeniken. I’m sure that film, who saw it, was remembered by many, giving birth to the desire to someday soar above the mysterious signs themselves.

Since then, every time I stumbled upon another study, I was inevitably curious as to whether mankind had finally managed to get even a little closer to the solution. I never even dreamed of seeing the Naska with my own eyes.

The first step in the direction of Nasca was taken six years ago, when I visited Peru for the first time. But then our paths diverged, not fitting into the itinerary. And in the spring of 2014, when Peru happened for the second time, everything worked out just right.

This encounter didn’t start with a plateau, where that same mystery sprawls in lines and zigzags in different directions. It began with a small town, also called Nasca, with its neat and clean streets, literally full of symbols familiar from my youth. You see them everywhere – on bus stops, sidewalks, lawns and the town’s coat of arms.

A mischievous, nimble monkey with a spiral tail picked out the city’s coat of arms for his pranks. A spider-bear with a fat belly went for a walk on the lawn…

Nazca - through space and time

The tiny hummingbird took off from the bus stop, and the dog’s foot settled on the main square…

Nazca - through space and time

These symbols noticeably enliven a sleepy and almost deserted city, not letting you forget where you are, why you came here. It is a pity that the efforts of citizens remain almost unnoticed by tourists. And the city, for sure, has its own history, a little forgotten, not just straight lines to the depths of centuries.

Let it not surprise you that the city looks modern. Traces of the colonial era are indeed unlikely to be found in it. And not because the Spanish who came here in the 16th century were too lazy to do anything.

However strange it may seem, knowing how dry and cold it may be here today, they were very active in growing grapes, turning them into wine. They brought in slaves from the black continent, accustoming them to wine and hard, grueling work. They were fanatical about their search for gold, which is still found today by modern miners. They built churches, as they did everywhere else, instilling in the Indians a taste for the new correct faith.

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Nazca - through space and time

So why does the town look modern. The reason is that the town was often subjected to earthquakes, which constantly changed its appearance. And another shaking in 1996, destroying thousands of buildings, again reshaped the city, erasing the architectural memory of the European invaders.

But it is not uncommon to hear about “aliens” from other distant worlds, to whom proponents of alien invasion insistently attribute the “traces” found in the desert.

But the Nazca lines, for which thousands of kilometers are traveled, are not the only mystery of the plateau, there are also many other archaeological mysteries. With them and should begin acquaintance with the plateau and go 20 km from the city, where the remains of ancient structures covered with sand are preserved. This place on the hillsides of the Nasca Valley is known as Cahuachi .

Nazca - through space and time

Like the lines and drawings discovered in the late 1930s, these “primitive” early 1st millennium structures of adobe blocks on several levels have seriously puzzled archaeologists – what were they for.

Was it a ceremonial and religious center with six pyramids, as Wikipedia describes it, based on the research of American Helen Silverman and Italian Giuseppe Orifechi? Oh, those archaeologists. They were quick to call Cahuachi the Vatican of South America. So impressed were they by the strange structures, mostly sand-bound, and artifacts scattered in the depths, among which were crockery shards, corncobs, and even mummified human bodies.

Or it could be something more prosaic and mundane. For example, it could be peculiar agricultural buildings with artificial terraces, like rice paddies. That is the opinion of those who saw sediments in the incisions, testifying to their water origin.

Nazca - through space and time

And if this is not the capital of the legendary civilization of Nazca, as recognized by the American Society for Archaeology, published in 1957 the first data on the excavations. It is useless to argue. Everyone can choose what he likes best, or offer his own version.

What does Kauachi look like for the curious tourist? In short, deserted, sunburned and stylized. How Orifechi, who led the reconstruction of dilapidated buildings, imagined it. In the Italian’s interpretation, Cahuachi took on the appearance of prehistoric decorations, bearing a remote resemblance to the Mexican stepped pyramids.

Nazca - through space and time

It would seem, well, what is surprising about that Cahuachi. The low, thick earthen walls curl in a ribbon, forming some strange foundation. Stairs leading nowhere are everywhere. Looking more closely at the small mounds, scattered around with sand, you begin to understand: And the scale is huge, the territory is not limited to just the excavated. And it is. According to aerial surveys, the central part of Kauachi stretches for many kilometers. Dig and dig…

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Even more questions arise at the sight of numerous blackening craters in the thickness of the sand, going into the underworld. What are they? Subterranean passages or hidden graves, plundered by “black” archeologists. There are a lot of them. It is scary to go too close to them, if you fail. The guide warned us – the depth is up to 5 meters and he joked darkly – the future generations of archeologists would have a lot of work if we unintentionally fall into these holes.

Nazca - through space and time

Secrets, there are mysteries all around. Touch the hardened sand with your toe and a fragment of ancient pottery appears. How many more unsolved mysteries keeps the yellow Peruvian sand? Maybe it is no coincidence that the famous lines and drawings of the Nazca Plateau, the 9th UNESCO site in Peru (1994), start a mile away. We eagerly awaited the morning flights over the plateau. Whether everyone’s expectations matched reality was revealed to us the next day.

The small airport is already full in the early morning. That’s where all the tourists turned out to be. Some were arriving, others were landing – a flight conveyor belt. The route was the same, a flight over the Nazca Plateau. We saved a little money on tickets by booking them at the hotel ($85, compared with the price of $100 if you buy tickets at the airport).

The rules are not too different from international. Same check-in and pre-flight inspection of allowed carry-on luggage no larger than a purse. Only together with her they weighed us, the passengers, evenly distributing the total weight on the cabin for ten people. It may seem strange to some people, but it was a definite plus for me – I could understand at once whether I should moderate my appetites or, on the contrary, whether I could still go on a feeding rampage. Finally, all the formalities were observed, and we walked briskly to the miniature plane that was waiting for us.

It was the first time I had flown in such a small plane. Something told me that the flying experience would be quite different from that of a huge airliner, it would not be without a bumpy ride. And these premonitions made me feel dizzy in advance.

A short run-up and all the buildings were soon reduced to squares. We were heading for the plateau, a lifeless dark spot as it looked from above. Here it was, the endless Nazca desert. A sheet of thick paper, a little wrinkled, with chaotic lines drawn by an unknown draughtsman’s confident hand, spread out. They are the main mystery of the plateau. As the poet would say: – “Here the mysterious fingernail of mystery has been stroked.”

Nazca - through space and time

I don’t know about the others, at that moment I saw myself as an explorer, almost a Maria Reiche, a fragile woman who fate had rewarded with the rare opportunity to join the ranks of discoverers. Next to Paul Kosock, the American historian and archaeologist who was the first to discover the macroriginals on the plateau. The primacy, in my opinion, is relative – even the 17th century Spanish chronicler Cieza de Leon mentioned in his chronicles about some “signs in the sands. So the Spaniards saw them as well…

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Looking at the desert below, I unwittingly thought: what qualities a field archaeologist should have, to spend almost half of his life in the desert remote from civilization, in harsh climatic conditions, capable of depriving even the toughest of all courage. That is how much Maria Reiche spent exploring the Nazca Desert, which never revealed its secret. For some reason, the plateau did not reciprocate her feelings.

At the age of 84, this remarkable woman boldly marked her fortieth anniversary of hard work by flying around the plateau in a hot-air balloon. One can only wonder what moments of her life in Peru she could recall then. How she taught in Lima, or how she swept the sand-covered plateau with a broom to discover new artifacts. How many kilometers she had marked off the solid earth with her steps, or wondered if her lonely earthly life of deliberation and doubt had been worth the effort.

It wasn’t only Reiche who found drawings. In 1984, an entire series of previously unknown giant images in a little-explored area of the pampa was discovered by a Peruvian pilot. But so far no tourist planes have flown there.

Under the wings there are enchanting images that make you numb. They fill you with shivers so that you can’t help giving vent to your emotions, how mysterious and beautiful is planet Earth! It is not delight that grips you at such a moment, but a vague inner thrill on an invisible X-ray unidentifiable level. A swarm of rhetorical questions excites you, turning your head. Could it be that here, in the hardened dead desert, once there was life pulsating.

I could see her former breath in the streaming scourges of the long-dry riverbeds, and in the swollen veins that stood out clearly in the blackened, frozen earth. Now I saw myself as a bird soaring through the air …

Nazca Lines in Peru: mysterious drawings and symbols

Peru is a country with a huge heritage of ancient cultures and civilizations. Traveling through this amazing country, it is impossible to realize the scale on which the creation of that time. The lost city of the Incas – Machu Picchu, various ancient temples and ruins, Nazca lines. These and many other sights make you admire the knowledge and skills of the ancient people.


The Nazca Lines in Peru are amazing drawings that represent various animals and more. There are many mysteries not only in their appearance but also in their purpose.

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Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

In total, there are about 30 large drawings on the Nazca Plateau. Here are some of them:

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

Photographs of these drawings from above are stunning. Perhaps the most enigmatic drawing of the entire Plateau is the Astronaut. It is a picture of a humanoid creature, also called a humanoid . This drawing is located on a hill and reaches a height of only 30 m.

Several humanoid figures can be discerned on the Palpa Plateau. However, tourists usually do not fly that far, tours go over the world-famous symbols.

Each of the figures has its own clear outline.

In addition, from above you can see that the entire plateau is pierced by straight lines of varying thickness. They stretch for several kilometers, without deviating from their direction.

This geometry of shapes is most striking. Today it is a big mystery how the ancient Incas were able to perform the drawings with such accuracy.

The size of the plateau is up to 50 km long and 6 km wide. Among the images can be seen: spirals, trees, sea creatures, many birds and animals.

Where are the Nazca lines in Peru on the google map:


Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

Thanks to the dry, semi-arid climate, the lines have survived to this day. How were the Nazca lines created? The ancient people would pick the ground to a depth of 50 cm (the average depth is 25 -30 cm) and create furrows about 130 cm wide. Thus, the shallow trenches merged into the overall pattern.

An interesting fact is that the surface of Pampas, where the drawings are located, has the peculiarity to retain traces very well.

But paradoxically, scientists could not find traces of the many workers who were engaged in drawing on the surface. Only on the slopes of the nearby hills there are traces of the local settlers who have been there.

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

From this we can conclude that it was extremely important for the ancient people to paint in the clearest possible way, so that nothing interfered with its perception from a bird’s eye view.

Also, lines are drawn on different surfaces – ground and stone. Because of the different color of these surfaces, the sun heats them unevenly. The dark surface heats up more than the light surface, which causes a difference in pressure and temperature.

This is why the Nazca lines are not subject to sandstorms.

There are also many geometric shapes in the desert: triangles, trapezoids and spirals. There are a total of 700 figures.


The Nazca lines were discovered very recently in the early 20th century in 1939. Before flights over this area in Peru, it was extremely difficult to see these huge drawings from the ground.


Why were the Nazca lines created? What are their uses? Scientists are still thinking about these and many other questions to this day. Obviously, most of the drawings can only be seen from the air.

  • The basic version is that the Incas tried to communicate with the deities in this way.
  • It has been deciphered that the clearly laid out images also resemble a map, hence the theory of the astronomical significance of these lines.
  • There is also a hypothesis that the lines served as a kind of reference point for flying ships.
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Neither hypothesis has been confirmed to date.

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

Maria Reiche, a scholar and researcher of the Nazca desert, claims that the lines and drawings were drawn at different times and probably for different purposes. She was able to find small sketches near the desert, which served to form the theory that the Incas used small drawings and then enlarged them to scale.

Scholars are of the opinion that the lines were created by the ancient Nazca civilization between 300 and 800. However, some believe that the creators of the geoglyphs were the ancient Incas.

Whatever the case, their messages have survived to this day. The drawings have also been called “the world’s largest calendar” and “the most gigantic book of astronomy.”


To see the Nazca lines, you have to get to the town of Nazca. It is a small settlement where tourists flock to with one goal in mind: to see the cherished drawings.

The most budget-friendly option is to visit an observation deck near the Panamericana Highway. The cost per climb is 2 sol (20 rubles). But from the observation deck you can only see two drawings.

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

When you arrive in town, you will encounter numerous agents who will sell you a tour to see the lines from an airplane. There are several airlines that do this business. Do not buy a tour from unofficial sources! Even among the sellers, there are those who have an office far away in town and simply resell tickets.

Flights start at 6 a.m. and last until 4 p.m. Weather conditions can affect the departure schedule.

Nazca Lines in Peru: Mysterious Drawings and Symbols

The cost of the tour depends on the number of people on the plane. There are planes for 12 people – the cost is around 4000 rubles, there are planes that hold 5 passengers: They fly a little lower, which allows you to see the drawings better. The cost of the excursion in such plane will be about 7000 rubles.

The flight over the Nazca lines lasts about 35 minutes.


Peru is a country rich in ancient culture and history. All the ancient monuments that have survived to this day are full of mysteries and riddles. When you visit Peru and its sights you will discover an amazing world that will turn your idea of ancient civilizations upside down.

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