Flying over the Nazca lines and other Nazca sites

Flying over the Nazca lines and other Nazca sites

Wed, 10/07/2024 - 10:00
Oldest Nazca line : the spider

Oldest Nazca line : the spider

Activity: Private tour arranged with Great Nazca Tours : private flight over the Nazca lines, Aqueduct, Chauchilla Cemetery, Cahuachi and Antonini Museum

Night: Nasca Lodge

Day 99

The bus from Cusco was very comfortable. I think I slept almost the entire 14hrs to Nazca. Except during the first 2 hours, because the road was down mountains and kept turning. This could make you sick.

Nazca is a stop that many travelers advise to skip, that the lines and other sights are not worth visiting or that you should just leave with the night bus the same day.
I have always been fascinated with the Nazca lines and after visiting museums and other pre-Columbian sites since we started, Nazca is one civilization I was quite curious about. We don't know much about them, most research being on the Incas.

But I still took into account the comments from others and only booked 1 night with a full day of visit. With such a limited time, it was essential to find a tour and transport that could take care of us as soon as we were out of the bus. I ended up after a lot of research finding a private tour that would bring us to the flight, and the 3 others sites to see. This was going to be a long day. Thank God we had a great night bus.

Oscar was waiting for us at the bus station and said that we had to secure our flight over the lines first. I think we were the first ones in the mini airport, outside there is a lot of mist and dust. Visibility doesn't look so good. We get weighted, buy the various tickets and airport taxes. Oscar gives us a briefing about the lines and in which order we will see the figures. Then we wait. The weather is not good enough. More people start to come in and it's not long before the tiny airport is full. We find a small coffee shop there to get a simple breakfast.

We get called up to board our private little plane at 9:30 but because of the weather, the captain informed us that we should take off at 10. I have never been in such a small plane. It feels very light. We take some pictures and chit chat with the copilot a little before it's finally time to go.

Our place over the Nazca line
Our place over the Nazca line : AeroFenix

I took the private flight and I am do glad I did. The copilot was commenting on the lines and telling us where to look. The pilot got us each time twice over the main 12 lines that we saw. One for each side. It resulted in some sharp turns which could get you seriously sick.

From the air, seeing the lines is magical. They look small from above, but each is like 200m, 300m long or wide. The design is quite clear and from the air you get a very good view. The 30min flight ends too fast. I am so glad we did this.

Nazca line bird
Nazca line: the bird
Nazca Line: Hummingbird
Nazca Line: Hummingbird


Nazca Line: the spider
Nazca Line: the spider

Once we land, the airport is a little chaotic, more people are coming. And I feel like many will have to wait for hours before their flight. I am glad we were there early and Oscar had booked us everything. Later that day he heard from a guide colleague that some tourists waited 6 hours. The weather and amount of people can make the flight schedule unpredictable.

Hence do not book an afternoon bus out of Nazca, eventually a night one if you really don't want to stay a night.

As soon as our flight was finished, Oscar decided to bring us to the further away site first before making our way back closer to town. We go to the Chauchilla cemetery were mummies of the Chincas have been discovered. The Chincas are after the Nazcans. They are about 1,000 years old. There are about 6 tombs that are shaped like pit. They have been opened for viewing with some mummies and human remains still inside. But as you walk around, Oscar jokes that the site looks like it's been bombed. Indeed, there are a lot of little mounts and depressions all around. Those are uncovered or already pillaged tombs. Too many, he said, and not enough funds for research.

Chauchilla Cemetery
Chauchilla Cemetery

The second site is the aqueduct. These were towards the end of the Nazca civilization. The area only gets water once a year for a month. But there are underground river systems. The Nazca built spiral shaped pit, or well, as well as canals linking them. There are about 36 different aqueduct networks around the valley. They are still in use today as a mean of irrigation. This is quite impressive.

Nazca Aqueduct Canal
Nazca Aqueduct Canal


Nazca Aqueduct
Nazca Aqueduct - water is at the very bottom !

Time for lunch, we are all starving. Oscar brings us to a nice little restaurant downtown. And for once, not a tourist trap but probably one of the nicer once of the area. Lunch is simple and affordable. He comes and pick us up about an hour later.

By that time, it's already 3pm and we still have two more sites to cover. The sun will set in 3 hours. We decide to visit the ruins of Cahuaci, an ancient Nazca religious site, and then finish with Antonini museum.

The road to Cahuaci is a dirt path through the desert for what feels like forever. It's bumpy and the sedan gets a couple of scratches.

Finally, we arrive to some greener valley, which means there should be some civilization or at least that the ruins should not be too far.

Our guide stops there, and mentions that everything left of us is a Nazca cemetery. We can see the same battlefield scenery. He gets us out of the car and we walk a couple of minutes in the desert. And it's astonishing: piles of bones, bits of bones, skulls, pieces of textile, whole slingshots or sandals ( that should be in a museum) are lying around. You don't know where to walk. Grave robbers, Oscar said, when they dig, they leave all that is not interesting around. There are too many archeological sites and remains and not enough funds for research. Nazca potteries are one of the nicest and more detailed of this period, they are sold in the black market in Lima. When there is an economic crisis, the people start to look for money where they can.

Nazca grave robbers leftovers
Nazca grave robbers leftovers

We are close to Cahuaci. Today 3 pyramids were discovered. It's a city made of adobe and they are still discovering more. They work once a year on the site uncovering more under each sand dunes. You don't have much access to the site just a walking path around it. The visit is interesting for all the information that our guide shared, yet it's still a short one. The city is estimated to be 24 sqkm.


The Nazcans were very devout, and had a fairly isolated culture compared to the other pre-inca civilizations. We call them Nasca but the core of their civilization was north from here, around the Rio Grande. Apparently, they found recently what could be royal tombs. In Cahuaci, they found a lady priest hinting at a more gender balanced society.

Oscar mentioned that they were very dependent of the weather and Cahuaci was rebuilt many times, each episode of El Nino destroying entire sections. Until a time where the Nazcans decided: no more; and they left it to build a few km down another temple complex with stronger wood foundations instead of just mud. But it was toward the end of their time and the new site didn't reach the impressive size of Cahuaci.

On the way back, Oscar decides for a shortcut. The river is low, he thinks his sedan can cross it. We head for the river and the farmlands instead of the desert this time. The light had that orange hue that makes everything look nice. And I enjoy the scenery of desert, with patches of green in seemingly off places. They cultivate avocado, a hardy type of potato and apparently blueberry. We successfully cross the river, which shaved off quite a good time on our road back to Nazca town.

We make it to Antonini museum at about 5:30pm. This museum was a little boring, the most beautiful pieces that we have seen were in the bigger museum in Cusco or even in Santiago in Chile. All the explanations are in Spanish only. At the back of the museum, in their garden, they have an aqueduct and also reconstituted tombs of various Nazca period. We talk about them a little more with Oscar.

With a guide, the museum was interesting because we could link few elements of Cahuaci with what was shown. And instead of wandering around, our guide pointed out to us key exhibits that resonated with the day's visit. Otherwise, I think it's not a super interesting museum.

We were done with the day visit by 18:15. Honestly that was just on time. If we hadn't had the first flight of the day, to go through the entire program would be impossible. We got incredibly lucky.

Oscar dropped us off at our hostel and bid us goodbye. Mirabel the owner, told us we could go to the planetarium where they give more details about the Nazca lines in regards to the stars in the evening. ( They have a French session at 18:30 and an English one at 19:30). That would have been super interesting but we were bone dead tired.

We dragged ourselves to la estacion, a grill, that she recommended. It was delicious. On our way back, we bought some snacks for tomorrow bus ride. We will spend lunch in the bus and they don't stop at all.

We collapse in bed a little after coming back. We had a fascinating and interesting day in Nasca.