It is hard to think of Nazca, without thinking of the Nazca Lines. And even though they are without doubt the most popular sight in Nazca, there is more to do around this area, such as visiting the biggest mummifications in Peru, aqueducts of thousands years old and the Sunday market. Here is a list of our top 5 things to do in Nazca.
Each Sunday, farmers and locals from Nazca and around come to the north east of the city to sell and buy their weekly products at the Sunday market. It is nice to take a walk around and look at all the different things that get traded, sold and offered, such as fruits, vegetables, clothes, etc. It is also the perfect place to try some local food, however, keep in mind that the hygiene might be less than what you are used to,
Nazca is famous for its pottery and the fact that they still use the traditional methods to do so, as they have been for over the past hundreds of years. The high quality work on the vessels and pottery found in the cemeteries along the Nazca river showed the daily lives of the ancient Nazca world. It represented, animals, gods, fruits and sometimes contain over ten colors. The best examples can be found in the Museo Arqueologico Antonini in Nazca. Other findings can be found in the Anthropological and Archaeological Museum in Lima and the regional museum of Ica.
Would you like to learn yourself how to make Nazca pottery? There are various pottery workshops across the area that you can visit for an explanation, a tour and a local souvenir for home.
The Nazca Lines are one of the biggest archaeological mysteries in the world. In total they are made up of 800 straight lines, 300 geoglyphs (geometric figures) and 70 animal and plant drawings. The amazing thing is that you can almost not see these figures from the ground, however, from out of the air you can see the patterns they make. The most popular figures are of animals, such as a lizard, a monkey, a condor, a hummingbird and a spider. The great mystery is that it still is not known why the lines were constructed and by who? And also, how did they know what they were doing long before aircrafts and other ways to look at the lines from above? There are various theories, which the local people and guides are more than willing to explain.
The Discovery of the Nazca lines
The lines were first discovered in the 1920s when the Peruvian airline of Faucette started flying from Lima to Arequipa. The pilots noticed the lines that were crossing the valleys of Palpa and Nazca. Intrigued by these discoveries, the archaeologist Toribia Mejia Xesspe concluded that they were part of ancient sacred roads. He never flew over the lines, and did not see that they are actually part of bigger figures. Later, the archaeologist Paul Kosok came to Nazca to study the ancient irrigation system, so typical for this area (see below for more information). He was told there were other irrigation systems still, and hired a small airplane to try and find them, but instead, he ran into the lines and figures. It was here that it first was understood that all the lines together make up for animals, such as a bir. Later he met Maria Reiche, who would spend the rest of her life understand and preserving the Nazca lines.
Observing the Nazca lines
There are two ways to see the Nazca Lines. The first way is by taking a small airplane. This way you can see most of the lines from the air and the actual shapes and figures they have made. Chaska Tours can help you organize your flight and make sure that this will be an unforgettable experience.
The second option is to go to the ´mirador´: the observation tower. This option is perfect if you would like to just get a general idea of the Nazca lines. From the observation tower you can 3 figures: the lizard, tree and the spider. Also, it shows that unfortunately humans have not always been so successful in preserving ancient archeological findings, because the big Pan-American highway, that goes right next to the observation tower, has actually cut off the tail of the lizard.
The Cantalloc Aqueducts
About thousands of years ago the Nazca population build a widespread system of subterranean aqueducts, called ´puquios´, from the Quechua word for natural spring, to make sure that the people would have access to water throughout the entire year. Quite special when you think that Nazca is located in an arid desert. This systems is unique in South America, and perhaps all over the world. Over 30 of these channels are still in use by local farmers. The Nazca Valley´s Cantayo area provides the best-preserved channels. Lined with river rocks, manholes and spiral paths they are not only useful but also beautiful.
Chauchillas is an ancient necropolis and a great place to get a bit more understanding about the Nazca culture. Here, you can find incredibly well-preserved mummies, with hair and skin still retained. Other things you can find around here are trophy heads and head jars. Also, tours are often combined with a demonstration of traditional gold mining and producing the ceramics that made the Nazca famous.