miércoles, 17 de enero de 2018

The Nazca Lines

There are few tourist attractions in the world as fascinating and enigmatic as the Nazca Lines. These geoglyphs, made between 500 B.C and 500 A.D, are located on an area of 750 km² in the desert of the same name, with geometric, zoomorphic and phytomorphic shapes and lengths ranging from 50 to 300 metres.

Since 1994, the Nazca Lines were declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

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Despite some strange theories, such as those of the Swiss writer Erich von Däniken, who spoke of the Nazca Lines as runways for extraterrestrials (published in his book Memories of the Future, 1968), recent studies confirm that the function of these geoglyphs would have to do with purely ritual aspects, being on a pilgrimage path to the pre-Inca city of Cahuachi.

The Nazca Lines would have a suitable location for pilgrims from cultures such as Paracas or Nazca to see them from nearby hills. The German archaeologist Maria Reiche - the main scholar of geoglyphs for about half a century - argued that the Nazca Lines served as an astronomical calendar that looked at the firmament.

If you want to visit the sacred city of Cahuachi you must take a road 25 km west of Nazca. This settlement was the most important center of Nazca culture and still maintains some pyramids in a considerable state of conservation, a cemetery and La Estaquería, where mummifications were believed to have been made. 

The average price for these tours is S$ 50 and you can count on a trip to the pre-Inca settlement of Puerto Viejo.

Visitors arriving at this deserted place can observe the geoglyphs from the viewpoint next to the Pan-American Highway or renting light aircraft services, which costs an average of US$ 100 (€ 95) for about 45 minutes of flight with the comments of a specialized guide.

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Some of the best known Nazca Lines are listed below:

The monkey is without a doubt the best known geoglyph of the hundreds of lines found in this desert. Its spiral-shaped tail, or nine fingers, are some of its most remarkable features. It is believed that it represents the Great Bear constellation.

The distance between the wings of the Hummingbird figure is 66 meters and is one of the most remembered lines for its harmonic strokes. The purpose of this hummingbird would be to pay homage to a flying god of the area's cultures, who would control rain and wind.

This figure of a Frigate Bird of about 160 meters has an astronomical significance, being aligned with the Fomalhaut star of the constellation of piscis. Its head is made up of segments of circles between 10 and 20 centimetres in length.

The geoglyph of the Spider is part of a network of lines located next to a trapezoid and measures about 46 meters long. It has an important astronomical and religious symbolism, since it is related to the constellation of Orion and drought in the rainy season.

This Giant bird shaped geoglyph is 300 meters long by 54 meters wide and stands out for its peculiar snake-shaped neck.  According to several theories, the Inti Raymi or Inca's solar festival would be announced, since during the mornings between 20 and 23 June you can see the sunset at the end of its enormous peak.

How to get the Nazca Lines

Nazca is 450 km south of Lima and can be reached by road through several bus companies from Lima, Arequipa and Cusco. If we want to get to Lima from Nazca, in Avenida Los Incas you can take the buses Cruz del Sur and Ormeño. Cruz del Sur also offers trips from Nazca to Cusco for about S/ 150 (US$ 46,7) (14 hours) through Abancay, a route that exceeds 4,000 meters above sea level, so we recommend warm clothing. There are also direct routes through Arequipa with other companies.

There are also some more exclusive experiences to fly over the Nazca Lines directly from Lima to Nazca, such as those offered by Aerodiana. Reservations must be made in advance.

In our journey to the south of Peru we will be visiting the Cotahuasi Canyon in the next post, a must before visiting the White City of Arequipa.

Esteban García, Peru Travels Blog
January 2018

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