If you are interested in culture and history, then you should not miss Nazca during your travels in Peru. Nazca was inhabited for years by the pre-Columbian Nazca culture, who left impressive masterpieces. The most famous are the mysterious Nazca lines: Kilometers of lines and geometric figures found in the desert and still being researched. These lines can be seen from the air by taking a special flight. But also pre-Columbian underground aqueducts and special cemeteries with mummies can be visited in Nazca. In this article you will read more about the best things to do in Nazca Peru, including tips for observing the Nazca lines, hotels and restaurants. Hopefully Nazca will be part of your Peru itinerary during your next visit.
- About the Nazca
- Things to do in Nazca Peru
- Restaurants in Nazca Peru
- Hotels in Nazca Peru
- Best tours in Nazca Peru
- How long to stay in Nazca
- How to reach Nazca in Peru
- More about Peru
About the Nazca
The Nazcas lived between about 100 BC and 600 AD. along the coast in southern Lima and the southern highlands. This civilization is known for the Nazca lines in the Pampa of San José, but also for its knowledge in the fields of astrology, architecture, ceramics and textile art. The small town of Nazca, located in the desert of Peru, is one of the most famous places and best things to do if you want to get acquainted with this culture.
Things to do in Nazca Peru
When I first came to Peru over twenty years ago, I couldn’t believe I had never heard of the Nazca Lines. And it still surprises me that it is relatively less visited than other parts of Peru. Most tourists who come to Peru, visit Cuzco and its surroundings. And that is for a good reason. But it is a shame that only a handful of people manage to find Nazca. Yes, you have to drive quite a bit for it. And Nazca is all about seeing the lines and you only see them properly by plane. That is true. But if you are interested in Peru and its history, these Nazca lines are incredibly impressive. And while you’re there, you might as well delve into Peru’s intriguing Nazca culture.
If you are not interested in history, stop reading and have a ook in the Peru archive for other things to do in Peru, such as visiting the Amazon rainforest.
A flight over the Nazca lines
One of the absolute top things to do during your visit to Nazca is flying over the Nazca lines. There is no better way to see them than from the air. A flight takes about 30 minutes and costs around USD 100. You fly past a dozen of figures including the monkey, hummingbird, pelican, alien, condor and spider. And with a small book in your hands you can perfectly recognize the creations. Afterwards you will probably even have more questions. What is the meaning of the lines and how did they manage to create them so perfectly hundreds of years ago? It is a special experience. At the bottom of the article you can read how and where you can best book a flight.
What are the Nazca lines? The Nazca lines are located in a desert plain of 350m2 in Peru. There are numerous lines and figures in the shape of animals. The longest is said to be up to 10 kilometers long. The lines were created by drawing stripes. As a result, the pebbles gave way to a light background and the figures became visible. It was not until 1927 that the figures were discovered from the air. Due to the constant dry climate, the lines remain clearly visible.
Tips for your flight
The planes are small and the pilots do everything they can, to show you the lines from different sides. It is therefore not strange to become nauseous. The only thing you can do is not eat too much, bring sufficient water and open one of the windows for fresh air. The flight goes fast, so don’t forget to put your camera down every now and then and enjoy the moment. Please note that the flight over the Nazca lines is weather sensitive.
Don’t want to fly over the Nazca lines? There is also an observation tower where you can observe a part of the lines. You will find more information later in this article.
Mummies at Chauchilla Cemetery – unique things to do in Nazca Peru
A cemetery of bones and mummies? It sounds a bit creepy. But visiting Chauchilla cemetery is mostly impressive and in my opinion one of the unique things to do in Nazca in Peru. Chauchilla cemetery is located on a large expanse of sand in the middle of the desert. The Nazcas wrapped their dead in cloth, often in a sitting position before they buried them in tombs. At the cemetery of Chauchilla you can see several mummies in open tombs, which have been well preserved due to the constant climate.
To protect the mummies, there are small roofs above the tomb building. But if you walk a bit further into the sand plain, you will be surprised about the number of bones that are still here. Tip: Go for these excursions with a guide, it makes your visit so much more interesting.
Can’t get enough of the cultural sights in Nazca Peru? Then visit the Museo Antonini. Contrary to what many travel guides say, this museum is definitely one of the things to do in Nazca if you are interested in the history of the region.
It is fascinating to discover how the Nazcas got their water in this dry desert environment. Special underground aqueducts were built to collect water from the mountains through funnel-shaped wells as drinking water. Ventilation and even access for cleaning were considered, so that the inside could not rot.
There are 46 aqueducts in and around Nazca and many of them are still in use. A number of aqueducts, including Cantalloc, can be visited for a few sol entrance fees. It is recommend to do this with a guide, so that you learn more about how the aqueducts were used, but also about the Nazca culture in general.
Meet Maria Reiche – educational things to do in Nazca Peru
You can’t get around this woman in Nazca: Maria Reiche. A German scientist that spent years researching the mysterious lines on the pampas. Her former home is now a small museum and one of the things to do in Nazca Peru. It is nice to walk in and get an idea of her life and the important research she did. The Museum of Maria Reiche is located near El Mirador, the Nazca viewpoint. It is therefore best to combine these two visits.
Several scientists researched the lines. Maria Reiche was one of the most important and believed that the Nazca lines were part of an astronomical calendar, consisting of star constellations. She was also convinced that the Nazca culture was able to create the figures so precisely by means of mathematical calculations. To substantiate this, she had observation towers built that can be visited to this day. Another theory teaches that the Nazca lines would form a map for the presence of water. Something wich is not hard to believe in this dry area. But due to the mysteries around the lines, there are also theories that the lines could only have been made by aliens. Only aliens would have been able to create the lines so precisely from the air.
Climb El Mirador de Nazca Peru
On half an hour’s drive from Nazca, you will find the mirador, the viewpoint. This observation tower was built by researcher Maria Reiche to prove her theories about the origin of the lines. Today you can climb the tower to see parts of the hand and tree lines on the pampas. A nice alternative if you are not going to fly. But even if you do: It is one of the best things to do to get the most complete overview of the Nazca lines in Peru. Entrance is a few sol.
Visit a ceramic factory
The town of Nazca in Peru is still known for its ceramics. There are a number of small ceramic factories, where the owners are more than happy to demonstrate how they work. The nice things is that it doesn’t feel very commercial. You often literally walk through the family’s house to attend a demonstration in the backyard. Taller de ceramica de Tobi is located in the center and Cerámicas Emilia, near the airport.
Watch a show at the planetarium
In the planetarium of Nazca you can learn more about how the Nazca lines relate to the galaxy. There are daily performances of approximately 45 minutes. The planetarium is located in the DM hoteles Nasca. It is for sure one of the educational things to do in Nazca Peru.
Buy earrings from the Nazca lines
Of course you will find many souvenirs of the lines in Nazca. From paintings to books and key chains. Because the area is also known for its silver, you will find also beautiful jewelry, including silver earrings with figures from the Nazca lines. A recommended items to bring as a souvenir. I have a whole collection myself.
Restaurants in Nazca Peru
Nazca is a dusty town that people mainly visit because of the Nazca lines. Nevertheless, it is a nice town to walk around and take in the atmospheres. Around calle and plaza Bolognesi you will some of my favorite restaurant spots that I have been visiting for years: La Encontada, Mamashana (good vegetarian dishes) and El Portón.
Hotels in Nazca Peru
There are many small and simple hotels in Nazca. A good mid-range hotel in the center is Casa Andina. The rooms are simple but well maintained and located around a nice inner garden with lots of greenery. There is also a swimming pool where you can enjoy the sun during the day. Are you looking for something more luxurious? Then take a look at the DM hoteles Nasca, the place where scientist Maria Reiche stayed during her research for almost 25 years. It is possible to view her former bedroom. In addition, DM hoteles Nasca has a lovely swimming pool and a planetarium with daily performances.
Best tours in Nazca Peru
For as long as I have been traveling to Nazca, I have been working with Alegria Tours. Alegria has years of experience in offering high quality services and safe flights. In addition, they offer tours that you can book in groups or privately. It is also possible to book a professional and knowledgeable guide here for your visit to the Chauchilla cemetery or the aqueducts.
How long to stay in Nazca
Nazca is not a destination where you want to spend days. My recommendation is to stay here for 2 or maybe 3 nights. You want to schedule at least one entire day for the the Nazca lines flight, because you don’t know when you will be able to fly. Schedule this early in the morning so that you have enough back up time, in case of weather limitations.
Depending on your arrival time in Nazca, you can visit the cemetery of Chauchilla and the aqueducts on your day first day. If you come from the coast, with your own car, make a stop on the way at el Mirador and the museum of Maria Reiche.
How to reach Nazca in Peru
Several buses depart daily from Lima, via Pisco, Ica to Nazca. You can also rent a car, so that you are free to stop wherever you want. The road from Nazca to beautiful Arequipa is a long one. There are good and comfortable night buses, leaving at 11 pm daily. Seats can go all the way to the back, making you travel more comfortable than in a plane. A good local bus company is Cruz del Sur. Do you want to travel during the day and make multiple stops? Then take a look at Peruhop. Here you can buy a discount pass that allows you to cover several routes in Peru. These are buses specific to tourists but guarantee a high standard of safety and comfort, including toilets and USB connection at every seat.
More about Peru
Did you enjoy reading this article about the best things to do in Nazca Peru? And do you want to read more about this beautiful country? Make sure to check out my other travel guides about Peru such as:
- City guide Lima
- Visiting the Amazon Rainforest – Tambopata National Reserve
- The best museums to visit in Lima
- Cusco concept stores
- The best restaurants in Cusco Peru
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