Nazca and around

Set in a green valley surrounded by mountains, Nazca would be just like any other anonymous desert oasis (the sun blazes for much of the year by day and the nights are crisp) were it not for the 'discovery' of a series of strange lines etched on the plains to the north. Tourists in their thousands now flock to the town to fly over the famous Nazca Lines, whose precise purpose still remains a mystery. Overlooking the town, 10 km southeast, is Cerro Blanco (2078 m), the highest sand dune in the world; it's popular for sandboarding and paragliding.

Getting there and around

There is no central bus station in Nazca, but offices are at the western end of town, close to the Panamericana Sur after it has crossed the Río Tierras Blancas. Most of the hotels are on Jirón Lima and around the Plaza de Armas, within easy walking distance of the bus stations. Do not pay attention to people selling tours or hotel rooms on the street, especially near bus stations; head straight to a hotel and find an official agency to handle your flights and tours. Taxi drivers usually act as guides, but most speak only Spanish. It is not dangerous to visit the outlying sites with a trustworthy person but do not take just any taxi on the plaza, as they are unreliable and can lead to robbery.

Sights

As most of Nazca's attractions lie on the outskirts, the town itself is quite functional. The large
Museo Antonini
, is worth a visit for a perspective on the area. A video is shown in the Conference Room. It is a 10-minute walk from the plaza, or a short taxi ride. It houses the discoveries of Professor Orefici and his team from the huge pre-Inca city at Cahuachi , which, Orefici believes, holds the key to the Nazca Lines. Many tombs survived the
huaqueros
and there are displays of mummies, ceramics, textiles, amazing
antaras
(panpipes) and photos of the excavations and the Lines. In the garden is a pre-Hispanic aqueduct. Recommended.

The
Maria Reiche Planetarium
, was opened in May 2000 in honour of Maria Reiche . Stimulating lectures are given every night about the Nazca Lines, based on Reiche's theories, which cover archaeology and astronomy. The show lasts about 45 minutes (commentary in English), after which visitors are able to look at the moon, planets and stars through sophisticated telescopes.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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