Found in the heart of the Ica desert of southern Peru, the Nazca lines are a collection of enormous geoglyphs carved into the desert’s surface. Although the incredible carvings have yet to be dated exactly, it is estimated that they originated between 500 BC and 500 AD from the Nazca Culture that existed at the time. Although no one is certain, many experts believe that the vast carvings in the land had religious significance to the Nazca people. As a result, hundreds of designs were carved throughout the Nazca desert of varying complexity and detail. Today the Nazca Lines have become a hugely popular tourist attraction and are a must see for all passing through the desert city.
The Nazca Lines’ first published discovery was by Pedro Cieza de León who mistakenly talked of trail markers in his book published back in 1553. With the rise of aviation came increased reports of the strange carvings in the desert from both military and civilian pilots flying in the area.
With the increase in sightings came interest from explorers. In 1927, the Peruvian archaeologist Toribio Mejía Xesspe stumbled across the Nazca Lines on foot which inspired him to spend years studying the lines and eventually report on his findings at a 1939 conference in Lima.
Paul Kosok, an American historian, was the first scholar to study the geoglyphs. He was investigating the theory that the strange carvings were used as irrigation pipes by the Nazcas. Having taken to the skies, he noticed that some of the lines actually resembled a bird. This discovery led to extensive research into why the ancient Nazca people had gone to such lengths to create these fascinating carvings, leading to many theories of how and why the Nazca Lines came to be.
A popular explanation as to why the peculiar lines came to be is related to celestial bodies and where they rise on significant dates. Many believe that the Nazca Lines point to where these constellations will rise on important days to the Nazca people.
Prof. Kosak investigated the theory that the mysterious carvings may have been used as irrigation systems to boost agricultural output in the middle of the vast desert. Some archaeologists have also theorized that the carvings may have been a way of worshiping the gods in return for water from the mountains.
Some theories are definitely more obscure than others and there is no definite answer as to the origins of the Nazca Lines. There has even been speculation that the people used balloons to check out the vast drawings from above, although this seems somewhat unlikely!
Nazca is located in the Ica desert, about a 6 or 7 hour drive from the capital. Unfortunately there are no trains or planes to Nazca, meaning the only way to reach the fascinating geoglyphs is by bus. For travelers looking to reach Nazca, our hop-on/hop-off bus service passes through the sought after location every day, making it easy to get to on a flexible schedule.
Peru Hop buses offer comfortable and safe trips to Nazca, with free pickups and drop-offs. There are also free additional stops and tours on the way to Nazca which will make your trip much more worthwhile! Check out the passes page for more info.
As Nazca is a major stop for tourists in Peru, there are many accommodation options available in town, from economical hostels to luxury hotels and everything in between. If you’re traveling with Peru Hop, you will also receive discounts at select hostels and hotels. For more information about where to stay in Nazca, make sure to visit our full Nazca city guide.
The most popular way of observing the Nazca Lines is, without a doubt, from the air. As the tour has grown in popularity with tourists, flight services have become readily available meaning anyone can see the wonderful geoglyphs from the skies, in all their glory! Flights last for 30 minutes, and are usually staffed by informative, bilingual guides so you can make the most of your Nazca Lines experience. Tour operators tend to run several morning and afternoon services with varying plane sizes meaning you and your whole group can enjoy the wonderful carvings together from the sky!
If flying isn’t quite your thing or you’re sticking to a tight budget, don’t worry! You can actually check out the Nazca Lines from an observation tower, costing only a few dollars for entry and transport. The view isn’t quite as spectacular as it is from a plane, but it’s definitely a fantastic experience if you can’t get a flight. If you’re traveling with Peru Hop, the observation tower is included as an added free tour with your ticket, meaning you can check out the incredible Nazca Lines free of charge!
For tours and flights over the Nazca Lines, check out the tours listed at the bottom of this page or visit our Nazca Lines flights page for more information.
With the largest geoglyph spanning 370m, the incredible Nazca Lines are a must visit for everyone traveling in Peru. So what are you waiting for? Whether it’s by plane or from the observation tower, get your Peru Hop passes and join us while we discover these mysterious carvings in the Nazca Desert. Also, make sure to check out our Nazca city guide for more information.