What do a giant hummingbird, a monkey, and an astronaut have in common? Well, apart from the Nazca lines facts that they´re all etched into the floor of the desert near Nazca, no one really seems to know. Welcome to one of the world´s greatest mysteries - the enigmatic Nazca Lines facts. A mirage of green in the desert, lined with cotton fields and orchads and bordered by crisp mountain peaks, Nazca was a quiet colonial town unnoticed by crisp mountain peaks, Nazca was a quiet colonial town unnoticed by the rest of the world until 1901, when Peruvian archaeologist Max Uhle excavated sites around Nazca and discovered the remains of a unique pre-Colombian culture. Set 598 meters /1,961 feet) above sea level, the town has a dry climate - scorching by day, nippy by night- that was instrumental in preserving centuries-old relics from Inca and pre-Columbian tribes. Overlooking the parched scene is the 2,078 meter (6,815-foot) Cerro Blanco, the highest sand dune in the world.
Even with the knowledge of the Nazca culture obtained from the archaeological discoveries, it was not until 1929 that the Nazca Lines Peru were discovered, when American scientist Paul Kosok looked out of his plane window as he flew over the north of Nazca town. Almost invisible from ground level, the Lines were made by removing the surface stones and pilling them beside the lighter soil underneath. More than 300 geometrical and biomorphic figures, some measuring up to 300 meters (1,000 feet) across are etched into the desert floor, including a hummingbird, a monkey, a spider, a pelican, a condor, a whale, and an "astronaut", so named because of his goldfish-bowl-shape head. Theories abound as to their purpose, and some have devoted their lives to the study of the Lines. Probably the most famous person to investigate the origin of the Nazca Lines facts was Kosok´s translator, German scientist Dr. María Reiche, who studied the Lines from 1940 until death in 1998.
Apparently, the Nasca people, over many generations, removed hard stones turned dark by the sun to "draw" the lines in the fine, lighter colored sand. The incredibly dry desert conditions - it rains only about 50 centimeters a year on average - preserved the lines and figures for more than 1,000 years.
Why the lines were constructed is more difficult to answer, especially considering that the authors were unable to see their work in its entirety without any sort of aerial perspective, The scientist who dedicated her life to study of the lines was a German mathematician, María Reiche,. For 5 decades she lived austerely in the Peruvian desert and walked alone among the lines, taking paintstaking measurements and making drawings of the site. She concluded that the lines formed a giant astronomical calendar, crucial to calculating planting and harvest times. According to this theory, the Nasca were able to predict the arrival of rains, a valuable commodity in such a barren territory. Other theories, though, abound. Nasca is a seismic zone, with 300 fault lines beneath the surface and hundreds of subterranean canals; an American scientist, David Johnson, proposed that the trapezoids held clues to subterranean water sources. Some suggest that the Nazca lines Peru not only led to water sources, but that they were pilgrimage routes, part of the Nasca's ritual worship of water. Notions of extraterrestrials and the Nasca's ability themselves to fly over the lines have been dismissed by most serious observers.
An observation tower stands beside the Pan-American Highway (about 19km/12 miles north of Nasca), but it only allows a vague and partial view of three figures: the hands, lizard, and tree. The view from the tower is vastly inferior to the overflight, but it´s the best you´ll be able to do if you can´t take the stomach-turning dips and dives of the light-craft flights.
The best way to see the lines is from one of the 3-9-seater planes flying out of Nazca Peru airport. Prices of flights vary from company to company but range between US$30-51 for a 30- to 45- minute trip. Flights leave in the morning and early afternoon, weather permitting, with the best time usually between 8-10:30 am, though it can be bazy in the early morning.
The small Maria reiche Museum (admission US$1.50). Though disappointingly scant on information, you can see where she lived, amid the clutter of her tools and obsessive sketches, and pay your respects to her tomb. To return to Nazca Peru, flag down any passing bus.
Scripted but interesting multilingual lectures on the lines are given every evening at Nazca´s small planetarium.
At the Cantallo aqueducts (admission US$1), just outside town, you can descend into the ancient stonework by means of spiraling windows - a wet, claustrophobic experience. The popular Cemetery of Chauchilla (admission US$1.50), 30 km south of Nazca Peru, will satisfy any macabre urges you have to see bones, skulls and mummies. A dirt road travels 25 km west to Cahuachi, an important Nazca center still being excavated.
Go swimming at the Nazca Lines Hotel. An off-the -beaten track expedition is to Cerro Blanco, the world´s highest-known sand une (2078m). It´s a real challenge for budding sandboarders fresh from Huacachina. Half-day mountain biking tours cost about the same (US$35).
Hotels and travel agencies tirelessly promote their own tours. Aggressive tours meet arriving buses to hard-sell you before you´ve even picked up your pack. Don´t rush: most agencies are clustered at the south west end of Lima. Never hand over money on the street.
Tours to outlying sites usually include a tedious stop for a demonstration at a potter´s and/or gold-miner´s workshop.
Bus companies cluster at the west end of Lima, near the main Panamericana roundabout. Most services to Lima (US$5 to US$22.50, eight hours), Arequipa (US$7 to US$36, 10 to 12 hours) and Tacna (US$15 to US430), 13 to 15 hours) and minibuses (US$2.70, 2 1/2 hours) also leave from the roundabout. Taxis to the aerodrome cost US$1.