Nazca, the dusty desert city near the south coast of Peru, is world famous for its mysterious lines engraved in the sand by a civilization thousands of years ago. No wonder the most popular activity in Nazca is to take a flight to see these lines from a bird’s–eye view. Not many people know however, that Nazca has much more to offer. From adrenaline-filled dune buggy rides to star gazing and mummy encounters: here’s why Nazca deserves a couple of days on your Peru itinerary.
-Inspired by her recent trip to the Peruvian desert, Naline Roodbeen wrote down her top 5 activities to do in Nazca
Learn about the Nazca culture during a city tour
The Nazca region, stretching from the Pacific coast across the desert to the foothills of the Andes, is a geographically and culturally highly interesting area. To discover more about its history, nature and culture, you can go on a guided city tour that starts in the Antonini Museum. It’s where you will learn more about the development of the 2000 year old Nazca culture, the archaeological excavations and the flora and fauna of this region.
The tour continues to the four main archeological sites around the city. Your guide will tell you all about the facts and theories behind the life of the Nazca people, answering questions such as where they get their water from in one of the driest places on earth. With an average of only 1 hour of rain per year and no modern facilities around, the Nazca people living in the 5th century came up with a highly intelligent construction of aqueducts and underground channels, providing them with much needed water that allowed permanent inhabitation of the Nazca region. During a visit to the Cantalloc archeological site you can see one of these aqueducts from up close.
Desert action: dune buggy ride, archeology and sand boarding
Would you like to combine history and culture with some action? This half-day tour shows you the best of what Nazca has to offer. A dune buggy will be your transportation for the day, taking you through the vast desert landscapes. Try spotting a desert owl or snake along the way! The buggy will make several stops at archeological sites in the area that show unique aspects of the mysterious Nazca civilization. You will visit ceremonial sites, pyramidal temples and aqueducts and get a glimpse of local life in the Nazca desert while passing through small villages. The last stop is at the dunes of Usaca. Here you will exchange the dune buggy for a sand board and race down the dune with highspeed. The way back to Nazca town will treat you with a phenomenal sunset in the desert landscape. Bring enough warm clothes though, because temperatures will drop dramatically as soon as the sun is gone!
Hike through desert landscapes to mummy cemetery Chauchilla
This unique route gives you an insider’s view on life and nature in the Nazca desert. The hike starts among the lush green farmland and cacti fields and ends in the dry and empty landscapes of no man’s land. In this rural part of Nazca, you will witness life on farms and in small villages while being greeted by school kids, farmers and herds of sheep or the occasional donkey. Along the way your guide will give you interesting insights in the agriculture and flora and fauna. The last kilometer of this leisurely walk will take you into the hills overlooking the desert. You will end just before sunset at the Chauchilla mummy cemetery, where you can get up close to mummified human remains dating back to the pre-Hispanic era.
Star gazing at the Planetarium
It is impossible not to look up to the sky while being in Nazca at night. Due to its location and weather conditions, Nazca is a great place for star gazing. The best place to get more insight in the constellations and the way they are connected to the Nazca Lines, is in the Planetarium in town. A visit starts with a 45 minute graphical display on a domed projection screen, showing you all about the shapes of the lines and their possible relation to the sky through the eyes of archaeologist Maria Reiche, who has been of great influence in discovering, analyzing and protecting the Nazca Lines. The visit ends outside the Planetarium, where guide Edgar or one of his colleagues will tell you more about the constellations while letting you search for planets and constellations yourself, through the lens of a telescope.
Spend the night at an ecolodge in the countryside
The streets of Nazca’s city center are filled with hotels of all sorts and sizes. But a truly unique way to experience Nazca is to stay at Wasipunko; a small scale ecolodge just outside the city (an approx. 40 minute drive). Here you will be welcomed by artist Olivia, who in the course of the years transformed her traditional Peruvian family ranch into a rural lodge full of artistic details where every visitor instantly feels at home. The accommodation consists of simple but comfortable rooms, surrounded by lush gardens, cacti fields and orchards. Olivia and her sons will be happy to advice you on any to do’s in the area and are in fact the ones who will take you on the scenic walk to Chauchilla. Do you have some spare time in Wasipunko? Read a book in one of the hammocks, enjoy homemade meals and experience life in a different place (or “at a different pace”): something no hotel in town can offer.
This was Naline’s top 5 activities in Nazca but if you want to read a bit more about this destination and surroundings please read our Destination Guide for the region, or if you are already convinced, get in direct contact with us, so one of our travel designers can get in touch with you very soon to start planning together your 100% tailor-made trip to Peru.