Updated January 21st, 2020.
What are the Nazca Lines?
The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs etched into the desert in southern Peru, not far from the unassuming town of Nasca. The lines cover a huge area and feature a whole range of lines and figures. There are geographical shapes, as well as planets and animals.
Speculation about how the Lines got there is rife, with people suggesting that they are replicas of star constellations to marks left by alien spaceships!
Whilst much research has gone into the history of the Lines and where they came from, the truth is that we still don’t know much at all about their origin. They remain, one of the planet’s greatest enigmas!
Also read our travel guide to Nasca.
How can I see the Nazca Lines?
The budget-friendly way to see the Lines is by travelling to the viewing platform (entrance 4 soles per person) which sits alongside the Pan American Highway. Currently, there is a second viewpoint in construction here too.
You can get there via public bus from Nasca centre for just 6 soles return. Ask for the ‘Lineas de Mirador’ and the journey should take around half an hour from the city.
Although this is a good option for those with tight purse strings, you will only be able to see three of the hundreds of figures and it is difficult to get a true idea of just how varied the Lines are.
For those who have more money to spend, the best way to see the Lines is by flight. These flights are not expensive by western standards at around $80 US per person but this is costly, relative to the price of things in Peru.
However, despite the expense, there is no arguing that the sky is without question the place to see the Lines from. You will see many more figures, stretching across a huge area and also be able to view them as a complete form and not just wiggly lines of something too big to gauge from the ground.
Although I hadn’t been fussed about seeing the Lines via a flight, after splashing out the occasion, I honestly think it was one of the best things that I did during my time in Peru. I would definitely encourage others to do the same!
Read more about backpacking in Peru here.
How should I choose a company?
It is likely that as soon as you step off your bus in Nasca, you will immediately be hounded by street vendors trying to sell you flights. Avoid buying from anyone on the street and instead head to a reputable company.
Sadly, ground space in Nasca City doesn’t necessarily equate to trustworthiness, so make sure you thoroughly research any company you are considering flying with.
What is included in the price of a flight?
Most flight prices will include transport to and from the flying site as well as your time in the air. Depending on the company you book with, this can be anywhere from around 25 minutes up to around 40.
Some flight providers will take you over the Lines and also zip across to the other side of Nasca to show you the aqueducts from the sky as well.
How should I prepare for my flight?
Do not eat a big meal before flying
A flight to see the Nasca Lines can be a little rough. In order to give passengers a good view of the geoglyphs, planes turn sharply and spend a significant amount of time flying at an angle.
Trust me when I say that this is sure to make your stomach do a few somersaults! In order to limit the effects of sickness (which is a very real possibility), avoid heavy meals before flying. A piece of fruit should be sufficient for breakfast a couple of hours before you fly.
Purchase some anti-nausea medication
Not strictly a must but if you suffer from motion sickness, you may feel better knowing you are prepared! Anti-nausea medication can be purchased from any pharmacy.
Fully charge your camera
Of course, you will want to get some photographs of this experience! If you have an action cam like a GoPro or a TomTom, make sure it is charged prior to leaving for your flight.
Be aware that these planes are quite cramped so try to position your camera in such a position that allows you to take advantage of the wide angle lens and the scenery.
Pack your passport
Even though a flight to see the lines is a domestic flight, you will still need to present your passport to the air company before boarding the plane. They will likely take photographs before returning it to you.
Make sure you have enough cash
The cost of a flight over the Nasca Lines will cost somewhere in the region of $80 USD. This can be paid for in soles or US dollars. Be aware that on top of the flight cost, every passenger must also pay a 30 soles air tax per person. This is payable in cash upon arriving at the airport.
Our experience with Air Majoro
We were picked up from our accommodation at Nasca Trails B&B around 9 am. Our driver took photos of our passport and then we battled with the morning city traffic to get to the airport. Luckily, the airport is only a short ride from the main city and it only took us around half an hour to get there, even with the traffic.
Upon arriving, we spoke to the lady who was dealing with our flight reservation. She gave us maps that would outline our route and also provide a visual representation of the Lines that we would be seeing and in which order.
We presented our passports again and also needed to be weighed. Flying in an aircraft this small means that weight distribution is an important factor! After our weight had been taken, we headed over to the desk to pay our airport tax.
We were led to our plane and introduced to our flying buddies. The take-off schedule is very strict so we had to pile into the plane hastily to keep to our departure time. Our small plane had the capacity for eight people in total, six passengers, the pilot and the copilot.
Previously, a copilot was never a requirement but after a few nasty accidents involving tourists, stricter regulation was introduced to keep passengers safe.
We pulled on our headsets and awaited instruction. Before I knew it, we had soared into the air and we were flying high above Nasca. Once we were cruising along nicely, the copilot formally introduced himself and asked how we were all feeling. As you would expect, we were all really excited to see the Lines!
He outlined our schedule and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that our flight would end with a trip to see the aqueducts. As the Pan American Highway came into sight, the copilot directed us to the first of the Lines that we would be seeing. Coming in at 65 m in length, the whale came into focus on the desert floor below us.
Although I had been warned about the prospect of motion sickness during a flight over the Lines, I hadn’t been prepared for the swooping sensation I felt in my stomach as we twirled in the air to get a better look. I was definitely glad I had passed on a big breakfast!
As we soared over the other geoglyphs below us, I understood why everyone says that flying is the best way to truly experience the Nasca Lines. Having visited the viewing tower the day before, I felt that I was able to appreciate the ancient markings in a whole new way after seeing them from the sky.
It is hard to get a full picture of just how magnificent these Lines are unless you are in a plane. As our copilot continued to point out different geoglyphs, including some that weren’t on our map (a nice added extra), all I could think about was the mystery behind the shapes below us.
After the Lines part of our flight was over, we flew over the city of Nasca before taking in the sights of the aqueducts. These were used for irrigation of fields and crops during the times of the Nasca civilisation.
They were such an ingenious creation of the people, that they are actually still in use by local farmers today. It was then announced that the flight was over and we would be heading back to the airport.
We had been in the air for around 35 minutes in total and the time had completely whizzed by. After a surprisingly smooth landing, we departed the plane and took the opportunity to take pictures of our trusty plane which had given us the best possible view of the Lines.
The pilots were brilliant and stood chatting to us and taking photos. One of my highlights was the pilot even letting me sit in his seat ready for take-off. I know, I’m a big kid! Either way, it wasn’t too long until everyone was getting involved and posing for photos in the cockpit.
Flying the Lines with Air Majoro was without a doubt one of the highlights from my time travelling in Peru. Although I will confess that initially, I hadn’t been fussed about seeing the enigmatic Lines from a plane, I am so glad that I let Tim talk me into giving it a go.
Although the viewing tower is good for backpackers who can’t justify the splurge of a flight, the only way to truly appreciate the scale and sophistication of the Lines is from a window seat. If you can stretch to the cost, do not miss out on the opportunity to marvel at one of the world’s greatest mysteries from the sky.
Read more about backpacking Peru here!