Peru // Nasca and the south coast //

The Nasca Lines and around

One of the great mysteries of South America, the NASCA LINES are a series of animal figures and geometric shapes, some up to 200m in length, drawn across some five hundred square kilometres of the bleak, stony Pampa de San José or, as more simply referred to, the Nasca Plain. If you plan to visit the lines by air or on foot, you’ll have to spend at least one night in Nasca, more to do it justice. If you’re staying over, base yourself in either the small town of Palpa or larger Nasca Town. When it comes to visiting the Lines, by far the best way is by air (see Flying over the Nasca Lines). If you’re keen to keep your feet on the ground, though, make for the mirador (viewpoint), 2km north of Palpa.

The Lines are a combination of straight lines continuing for many kilometres in some cases across the sandy, stone-strewn plateau; others look like trapezoidal plazas, perfectly created by clearing the stones from the surface for the required pattern. Around seventy other “lines” are actually stylized line drawings of birds and animals (some over fifty metres wide), believed to symbolize both astrological phases and possible ancient Nasca clan divisions, with each figure representing, perhaps, the totem of a particular sub group of this pre-Inca society and that clan’s animal ally in the spirit world. Theories discussing their purpose and origin are as varied as the patterns themselves (see Theories about the Nasca Lines).

More about Peru

20% off ebooks

Subscribe to the Rough Guides newsletter and get 20% off any ebook.

Join over 50,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month.