Viewing the Nazca Lines

October 9, 2010 § Leave a comment

Flying over the Nazca Lines - Viewing Spaceman on side of the Mountain

Flying over the Nazca Lines - Viewing Spaceman on side of the Mountain

The only way to view the Lines of Nazca is from the air.  The best way is by taking a flightseeing tour, there are flights  available every hour from sunrise to sunset.  To make your reservation you can ask at your hotel, book at a local travel agency or go directly to the Maria Reiche airport to ask directly with the planes for pricing.  Prices vary depending on where you purchase the ticket and how many people are on board.

Cesna Planes at the Maria Reiche Airport

Cesna Planes at the Maria Reiche Airport

Plan to arrive to the airport approximately 20 minutes before your scheduled flight and remember to bring your passport with you or you will not be able to board. You’ll first need to fill out a form with the airlines that includes details like your name, passport details, age and weight.  Once you’ve provided the information, you’ll pay the 20 Soles airport departure tax and head through security to board your plane.  On board each passenger is given a set of headphones to hear the captain and a map to help with identifying the puzzling desert figures.

The tour lasts roughly 45 minutes flying over the Nazca Plateau is a desert in the truest sense of the word – rain is almost non-existent here. The hot dry environment worked as an oven baking the earth’s surface over the millennia.  The result is a near perfect canvas where any disturbance to the surface’s crust over the centuries could be seen.  The Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca Culture sometime between 300 BC and 800 AD.  The Nazca people removed the reddish-brown stones that cover the Nazca desert to display the white soil underneath.

These geoglyphs were rediscovered in the 1930’s by American Archaeologist Paul Kosak.  It was years before their significance was realized in no small part due to the work of Maria Reiche a German born mathematician and archeologist who dedicated her life to restoration and preservation of the figures.  In 1995 the Lines of Nazca were named as a UNESCO world heritage site.

As you might imagine with their recent discovery in an area that had been inhabited for centuries there are other impressions in the desert those of tire tracks, and water flows from years past.  Due in part to these other marks the first few figures are among the most difficult to recognize.  Partially due to their geometric nature, but as you fly over scanning over the desert floor you’ll suddenly realize that these marks are significantly different from any other and were not done as a fluke accident but instead were purposefully placed in an exact form. 

The flight continues over the plateau the astronaut can be seen on the side of a mountain pointing towards the sky.  Then the tour reaches its climax as the figures the dog, monkey, parrot, heron, spider and condor can all be seen close together.  You’ll pass overhead of the viewing towers where people who prefer not to take the plane ride can climb up an observation tour to see the hands and the tree. 

The flight-seeing tours are aboard small Cesna planes.  I had been cautioned ahead of time not to eat anything before flying to avoid air sickness.  This is sage advice, the planes fly between 2200 and 3200 feet elevation.  Along the way the pilot makes a circles above the figures banking from left to right to provide optimum photo and videos for both sides of the plane at each figure. 

I traveled in the cool time of the year and the small plane became a sauna in the warm sun.  I travelled in the afternoon – which in hindsight was probably not the best time of day for the trip.  The other 3 people and I were all drenched by perspiration by the end of the flight. 

I would recommend planning your flight for the early morning hours before the sun reaches its peak and wearing light clothing to make the experience as comfortable as possible.  Based on my experience and the reaction of my companions I think more people get air sick due to the combination of the circles, banks and heat than any air turbulence.

I recommend the flight to get the best view of all the figures and ponder firsthand about why the ancient culture created them.

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