Before embarking on our South American journey we were sure about a lot of sights we wanted to see or things we wanted to do. Flying over the Nazca Lines was not one of them. Sure, we were intrigued by this Unesco World Heritage site and were curious about it. It is one of the great wonders of this world: how did the lines get there, how old are they, who made them and why?
But at the same time many people mentioned being disappointed with their flight because they could hardly discern the lines on the ground. Moreover many people get sick in the small planes when the pilots sharply bank left and right to allow every passenger equal good views of the lines drawn on the desert floor.
One of the most famous sights in the world
In the end we decided to do it anyway, despite the $ 80 pp cost for a 30 minute flight. We were so near now to one of the most famous sights of Peru – or maybe in the world – that it would be a shame to let it pass. It was now or never. We are glad we chose to ignore the negative reviews.
We were traveling with Peru Hop the first week of our trip and the Nazca Lines flight is not a part of their itinerary. The Peru Hop bus only stops at the observation tower next to the Panamericana highway where you can get a glimpse of 3 of the 70 animal and plant figures drawn on the ground. But to get a real grasp of the extent of the lines and geometric figures you really have to fly.
We were able to book a flight through Peru Hop though, provided we arranged getting to Nazca by ourselves. Our Nazca flight adventure started by getting up early in Huacachina and taking a taxi with two fellow Peru Hop travelers from France to nearby Ica, where we boarded a Soyuz bus for the 2,5 hour ride to Nazca.
Small planes, impressive sights
At Nazca bus station we were picked up by a representative of the flight company to take us to the small Nazca airport. Before the flight there was a little moment of truth for me. When we left for Peru I almost weighed 88 kg (naked). Passengers who weigh more than 90 kg have to pay more for the flight, but luckily the scale stopped at a little over 89 kg, despite wearing clothes and heavy walking shoes.
After some waiting around in the busy waiting room we were taken to our eight seater plane and getting closer to it we noticed for the first time how small these planes actually are – exciting and a little bit scary at the same time. But once in the air and flying over the Nazca Lines that was quickly forgotten.
It was very special to see the lines and drawings from the air. Many were much clearer than we had anticipated, the famous humming bird being best visible. Regretfully the pictures tell a different story; it proved not to be that easy to take good pics. The images seemed to disappear from my viewfinder every time I had one in focus. The memories of flying over the Nazca Lines, however, will never disappear.
Bizarre Chauchilla mummies
After flying over the Nazca Lines we had an afternoon to kill before the bus picked us up for the night’s journey to Arequipa. We hired a car and guide to take us to the Chauchilla cemetery 30 km south of Nazca. This proved to be a worthwhile excursion. At this off the beaten track spot in the middle of the desert several excavated tombs can be found with two thousand year old bones, skulls and mummies of the Nazca people. Bizarre but interesting. Because they believed in rebirth they got buried with everyday utensils like pots and pans facing the east (where the sun rises, in other words: where new life begins).
If you want to stay alive and well yourself, bring plenty of water. There’s not much shade at the cemetery and it’s (very) hot. Taking a guide is also highly recommended. There are not many explanatory signs at the site and having someone give you some background about the Nazca people, their burial rituals and the Chauchilla cemetery adds a lot to understanding and appreciating what you see. On the way back to Nazca you can make a stop to see how Nazca pottery is made using traditional techniques.
Travel tips Nazca Lines flight
♦ Flying in a small plane is an adventure in its own right, but it can make you sick when you’re not used to it or are prone to motion sickness. Motion sickness pills can help prevent you getting nauseous, provided you don’t take them too late. An Asian girl on our flight found this out the hard way. The pilots warned us beforehand: there’s always at least one passenger that gets sick during the flight. For us the pills worked like a charm, just like during our Islas Ballestas boat tour and our dune buggy ride in Huacachina the day before.
♦ The flight is best taken in the morning, when skies are clearer and there’s less wind and therefore less turbulence. We booked the flight two days in advance but it is also possible to book a flight at the bus station – several operators wait for buses to arrive – or at the airport where each operator has an office which makes it easy to compare prices.