[Los Paradones from the base of the ruins]
Aside from Machu Picchu, Nazca is home to the most interesting sight in Peru – the Nazca Lines! They are a UNESCO World Heritage site and certainly a wonder of the world – even if they don’t officially have that title. Seeing them is a must, even though you don’t have to take a helicopter ride to get the best experience. Nazca is a quaint town that you can wander around for a little an afternoon or two, visiting some of the other ruins left behind.
Things to Know About Nazca
Nazca is a tiny town, supported in large part by tourism to the Nazca lines. They’re geoglyphs – lines drawn in the sand that make a variety of different shapes. Most people will crowd around the bus station for you when you arrive; don’t be surprised to see hoards of tour operators clamoring for you attention. A 30-minute helicopter ride over most of the lines can give you a good look, but it’s expensive. You are put onto a chopper and flown back and forth, and I’ve heard some people complain of getting dizzy while on the ride. Furthermore, you can only get a view from your side of the chopper – not both sides. Whether or not you think it’s worth it is up to you!
Nazca also has old aquifers and ruins that you can visit, museums that talk about the Nazca lines, and a wonderful planetarium that can show you truly wonderful skies. If you have the time, save some for these places!
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Places I went and sights I saw:
The Nazca Lines, the Cantollac Aqueducts, Los Paradones, the Plaza de Armas, and the Planetarium
I had basically no plan when I arrived and was overwhelmed by all the tour operators advertising their helicopter rides. I decided to walk away from the bus stop and saw a small tour office with a nice older lady who was talking to a customer. She motioned for me to sit down and started explaining the different options she could offer me, and I decided to book a tour with her. The first three attractions I saw on a private English tour with one of her guides; the last two I saw alone.
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The Lines span a really giant area. While the most well-known and recognizable shapes are those of animals (and other things), they are quite varied as a whole. There are patterns that look more plain, like rays out of a center; I went to see some of these. I then saw the Lines forming a tree and hand from a tall tower along the highway. It’s about three stories tall and is specifically for viewing the Lines without a helicopter; the view isn’t as far but you can see most of the two figures surrounding the power. It also costs just $1-2, making it much, much cheaper than a helicopter ride.
The rest of my tour was pretty interesting. The Aqueducts and Paradones were isolated from the city center, so my tour guide and I were the only ones there. The structures were fascinating – I would highly recommend going here.
I have some mixed feelings about the tour. However, I do think that it was very convenient for me to have a private tour guide. Pepe explained all the relevant history and culture in the attractions that we saw; he also took me directly from place to place. There were virtually no taxis and the attractions were pretty far apart, so the private car was a plus. I also had no place to put my luggage, so I appreciated being able to leave it at the tour office.
Lastly, the Planetarium was awesome! It was attached to a hotel which was quite fancy and had a full restaurant. The staff showed us a video explaining the Nazca Lines and then we went to see the telescope. The night was clear, so I got a beautiful view of the moon!
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My mixed feelings for the tour was the price – very high. I feel like I might have been taken advantage of. However, I was a bit naive and traveling on my own, so I guess that’s my price to pay. I also am sad that I missed the Maria Reiche Museum (she’s the one that moved to Peru to study and preserve the Lines)!
The Plaza de Armas was tiny and a little pathetic, as was the meal that I had there. Otherwise, I enjoyed the day a lot!
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What are your recommendations for Nazca? I’d love to hear your comments below!